March 28, 2014
Roll Tide Alabama Tennis Fans,
How quickly the season goes as I feel like we were just in Starkville kicking off our SEC campaign. Fast forward four weeks and nine matches later, and we've got just five matches left before the conference tournament takes place over Easter weekend in Nashville. This week caps off spring break, which for us is never really a break but rather the week in between a long road trip and an exciting home stand.
First was the long road trip that began a week ago when the Tide left Tuscaloosa for Columbia, South Carolina and Gainesville, Florida. The journey was piloted by Thomas our driver who drove a plush sleeper bus with the greatest of ease. I've never seen anyone parallel park a large vehicle like this before nor maneuver around a pair of college towns like he was driving a Prius. Our trip to the home of the Gamecocks took roughly seven hours, which didn't seem too bad considering we had flat screens, video games, movies, wifi and beds at our fingertips. It was the first time since our flight to Texas on January 31 where the whole team was together versus in separate SUVs or vans. We also had a warm weekend to look forward to as temps in the 70s were forecasted, which was a treat as we still hadn't seemed to be transitioning into spring back at home.
First serve at the South Carolina match took place an hour before the first serve at the inaugural women's sand volleyball game whose facility stood right next to the courts. There were more than 1,000 people that cheered on the home team at the volleyball match and then moseyed on over to watch tennis. It definitely added to the atmosphere as Bama jumped out to an early 1-0 lead following impressive doubles performances by Becker O'Shaughnessey/Daniil Proskura and Hayes Brewer/Andrew Goodwin. The momentum definitely carried over to Becker's court in singles as he was first off and gave us a quick 2-0 lead. The rest of the matches were tight and a tug-of-war was going to determine the outcome of this battle. The crowd grew in size as South Carolina sand volleyball swept the visiting Oregon Ducks with plenty left to complete in our match. After straight set victories for the Gamecocks on courts three and fice, the match was tied at 2-2 with a trio of three-setters left on court for Daniil, Sean and Hayes. We had been in this position before where getting an early break could prove to be the difference. After Hayes gave a valiant effort at No. 5 losing 6-4 in the final frame, Daniil outperformed his opponent to even things at 3-3. Sean and his South Carolina counterpart played aggressive and looked to finish points at net with each ball they struck. In the end it was the home team pulling ahead to stay and giving the tennis/volleyball crowd a 4-3 victory. Another close contest to add to this season of inches. It was our eighth nail-biter to date, and as the saying goes, it was all happening for a reason. Our time was coming.
So on to Gainesville we drove after a quick refuel of the beastly bus and plenty of Chipotle in our bellies.
After arriving in Gatorland just after 4 a.m., the Tide quickly checked in and tucked themselves into bed for several more hours before our team breakfast. While our heads might have been a bit cloudy from the match, bus ride and break in sleep, we were ready to rebound against the Gators. That Saturday night we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Ballyhoo Grill and watched Nikko Madregallejo receive a traditional pie in the face on the eve of his 19th birthday.
Florida had a deep squad, and there was a mild threat of showers. No worries on this end as indoors would be fine, and Florida had a new three-court facility just next to the outdoor stadium.
The doubles got started on the right foot with Sean and Stuart performing at a high level and trouncing their opponents. Andrew and Hayes lost a tough one, and Daniil and Becker were in a dog fight. Originally down two service breaks in the middle of the match, they jumped back into contention with chances to clinch the point for the Tide. We were not able to get over the hump however and dropped the tiebreaker 7-5.
The spirit was still there. We definitely had the fight and competed our tails off. Daniil was most impressive as he grinded his opponent side-to-side with heavy topspin groundstrokes. Hayes was battling in a three-set thriller of his own, while Nikko was doing the same. The Gators claimed a couple of quick wins at No. 2 and No. 3, while Andrew was in a dog fight at No. 5. A few break-point opportunities were there for Goodie, but his opponent came up with some impressive shots. A tough way to go down given the fight we had in this day.
So it was back to T-Town for a couple of days off and then time to refuel for the upcoming home stand vs. Vanderbilt on Friday and Kentucky on Sunday.
The team spent a day at beautiful Zidon Avisha Ranch where we took part in some non-tennis fun like paint ball, fishing and clay shooting. We enjoyed a nice BBQ dinner and the highlight of the day was a March Madness upset ... not on the basketball court but rather the clay shooting field. Becker was the top seed in this event given his hunting background, while all the others were doing their best to hit a few targets. In the end the Cinderella story was Saxon Buehning, who advanced to the final round against Big Beck. After several rounds of overtime, the non-hunting New Jersey native claimed the clay shooting crown.
A great end to a fun day and a solid break from the daily grind. After a pair of very focused practices on Wednesday and Thursday, the Tide is ready to take it to the Commodores and Wildcats this weekend.
Sunday is USTA Kids' Day where we'll have a post-match hit around with the team as well as FREE PIZZA for the kids and a bounce house to get the sillies out.
We hope to see you out this weekend as most of you return home from spring break vacations and want to see some exciting tennis (rain or shine).