April 10, 2014
Roll Tide Bama Tennis Fans,
We're heading down the back stretch with one turn left before we head for the home stretch. What a season it has been this far, and it all culminates this weekend as the Tide hosts a pair of SEC standouts, an additional pair of non-conference foes and honors a pair of Alabama players on Senior Day.
Last weekend was lighter than usual with just one match to compete in. Driving from Houston to College Station in traffic made me appreciate living in a small town and not having to deal with freeways or congested highways. I also felt like I was on the set of Friday Night Lights as we passed many large high school football stadiums on our way to our fairly new conference opponents.
We came out strong in doubles against the Aggies and pushed a pair of matches to tiebreakers. The first was at the top position where Becker O'Shaughnessey and Daniil Proskura defeated the No. 2-ranked team of Ore/Withrow. The wind was blowing fairly hard and points didn't last too long. Aggressive serving and net movement were key factors in determining who was going to pull out the victory. Becker and Daniil had a couple of match points that their A&M opponents saved, however after an unforced volley error at 6-6 by the home team, match point No. 3 was going to be converted ... and it did.
After dropping our match at the No. 3 position, all eyes shifted to court two where Sean Donohue and Stuart Kenyon had break points of their own late in their match. Big serves saved the Aggies, and a tiebreaker would decide the outcome. Last year we won the doubles point twice against A&M, and we were looking to do the same this time around. After saving a couple of match points we were down 5-6 but serving with the wind blowing in our favor. A first serve just missed wide and then a second serve clipped the net and missed long giving A&M the doubles point. Rats.
I believe this dampened our mood a bit heading into singles. Daniil and Stuart won their first sets, and we were close on a couple other courts; however the Aggies were solid and executed more times than we did.
So back to Tuscaloosa for an entertaining and final regular season home stand. Player parents will reunite after their inaugural meeting at Regionals last fall, and we'll sprinkle in a tennis mixer and team celebration on Saturday. We've got plenty of FREE pizza for the Georgia match on Friday night at 5 p.m. and an even better FREE BBQ rib cookout on Sunday for the Tennessee match at 1 p.m. Let's also add a match before the Bulldogs (Tulane on Friday at 10 a.m.), and while we're at it, another one after the Volunteers (Nicholls State on Sunday at 6 p.m.). Remember it's not how you start, it's how you finish, and I'm really excited to see our team compete this weekend.
Now onto our players participating in their final home weekends - Daniil Proskura and Brian Conlon. Each guy has his own unique and infectious personality and both impacting the Bama men's tennis program in many ways. I've been very fortunate to coach Daniil and Brian, but more importantly, see their growth as both tennis players and young men in the two seasons I've been on campus. They have been a pleasure to work with on court, but I am going to remember most the times we spent off the court discussing a variety of topics including school, work, relationships, ultimate frisbee skills, leadership, music, hair styles, and quite simply, life. Below you'll find an account of each player from one of their teammates.
Junior Andrew Goodwin's reflection on Daniil Proskura:
"I've known Daniil for a little over a year now. While playing at Southern Mississippi, I saw his name in the college tennis ranks and on court at Regionals but did not get a chance to personally meet him until my visit to Bama a little over a year ago.
It was then that I saw one thing that stood out (aside from his "Russian-Southern style English) and it continues today as his teammate and roommate - his work ethic.
Everything Daniil does in life he takes pride in. He wants to do everything to the best of his abilities and he will do anything to succeed, even if that means cleaning our kitchen sink a few extra times (actually he could do better with that).
He has made a huge impact to the team. Since the dual match season started I've always thought the best thing for our team is seeing Daniil grinding away and screaming his Russian at the end of points. This has given the rest of the team a sense that Daniil is battling, locked in, and doing everything in his power to get a point on the board for the Crimson Tide. To see him at the top of the lineup each match, playing the toughest players, under the most stressful situations has given us all a boost because we see what we should be striving for when we are on the court.
In my eyes Daniil will be remembered for setting the new standard for the Alabama men's tennis program. The amount of effort he puts into his tennis, studies, and social life are unmatched to anyone in my eyes. He is the model student-athlete, and he has succeeded at the highest levels because of his relentless pursuit of success. He motivates me to become better every day, and I believe because of Daniil's contributions, the Alabama men's tennis program will continue to grow and prosper."
Junior Co-Captain Stuart Kenyon's reflection on Brian 'BC' Conlon:
"When I first met Brian 'BC' Conlon, it was on our recruiting trip. We were both a bunch of knucklehead high schoolers thinking we were the hot shots. He was a tennis player, big truck driver, dub-step DJ kind of guy. That weekend Brian was all in, absolutely loving every minute of our trip here. Connecting with all the guys and even beating up on a player from Troy. At the end of that weekend I knew I found my new roommate.
Since then I've grown to love Brian more and more. Sure we had our moments of disagreement and fighting, mostly over girls we were trying to impress, but he has always been there for everyone, especially me. Brian is selfless, always looking out for others and always looking to do what's right. He has a knack for knowing if something is wrong with someone. He can just tell that there is something bothering that person and will ask them what's going on. He will always talk it out and give great advice to the person. And he can always just do his high pitch laugh that will make anyone crack a smile. It's DJ BC to save the day.
You can always count on Brian to be there for you as a teammate, friend and a brother. It's been a privilege to have Brian in my life throughout college and an honor to be on the same team."
So come join us for a festive weekend of tennis. Mother Nature is providing beautiful weather (may that not be a jinx), we've got food for all to enjoy, a slew of exciting matches and more passionate fans than any school in the country.