April 17, 2014
Hello from Nashville Tide Tennis Fans,
Well the SEC Champs are here and Bama is ready! We arrived at Vanderbilt yesterday under clear blue skies and had ourselves a nice practice in preparation for the Crimson Tide vs. Gamecocks (Part 2). We feel well rested after the last two days spent catching up on sleep, hydration, school and training room treatment. Today's battle takes place at `high Noon' CST.
Last weekend served up a plethora of tennis as the Tide competed in five matches over three days. A doubleheader on Friday followed up by a tripleheader on Sunday. Can't say that I imagined starting and finishing the regular season with three matches in a day but the script is never set in stone. Tulane was our first opponent of the weekend. We came out strong in doubles and pushed that momentum into singles play. Becker and Daniil picked up a ranked win at No. 1 doubles which clinched the first point of the match after Stuart and Sean tallied a similar 8-3 score at the No. 2 spot. From there on it was Becker, Stuart and Daniil securing point No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 to give the home team the victory.
Following a relaxing lunch at the newly renovated Jason's Deli, Bama returned to action against the visiting Georgia Bulldogs. Currently sitting at the top of the SEC standings, Georgia was looking to not only extend their win streak but also give their coach, Manny Diaz, career victory No. 600. The doubles matches were intense and extremely close, with each court battling in a tiebreaker. Becker and Daniil dropped a tough one to the No. 12 team in the nation, Pieters/Wagland, after being up a break earlier in the set. Stuart and Sean were up a mini-break in their match while Andrew and Nikko were knotted at 5-5 in their breaker. Following a multiple volley point and narrowly missed overhead by Bama on court No. 3, the Dawgs served out the breaker with a 7-5 victory and a 1-0 margin heading into singles. We would come out alive and kicking in search of four singles points, but Georgia proved to be too tough on this night. Experience and execution were the name of the game, and we got behind early on a couple of courts which put the squeeze on our comeback attempts.
Saturday brought parents of our players and Crimson Racket Club board members out to the courts for a casual doubles mixer. The top-seeded team of Becker and John (Becker's dad) O'Shaughnessey worked their way through the draw and defeated Stuart and Mike (Stuart's dad) Kenyon in the final to capture the inaugural Men's Tennis Parent/Senior Weekend Doubles Championship. Later that day the team, parents, CRC board members and athletic department support staff met up at my home for a Senior Celebration. Brian Conlon and Daniil Proskura were presented with gifts for their invaluable contributions to the men's tennis program following words from coaches, teammates and themselves. Below are a few highlights from both Brian and Daniil's speeches to the guests on hand.
Brian "BC" Conlon's Top-10 Things Learned While Part Of Alabama Tennis:
1. Little things make big things happen.
2. Be very particular in practice and routine. This leads to results.
3. Dedication and hard work can trump talent on any given day.
4. Be confidently humble.
5. There's always a way to make things happen.
6. Make sure to take care of yourself while helping others around you.
7. Finish what you started.
8. Mediocrity is not tolerated now or in life.
9. Each day is an opportunity and your decisions, choices and mindset determine if you seized the opportunity or it let dwindle away.
10. Family is the No. 1 most important thing in life. At the end of the day they're everything you need.
Daniil Proskura's Alabama Tennis Experience ...
Being a student-athlete at Alabama really shaped my character over the course of four seasons. I began not knowing much at all about college tennis or the American university system. I had to follow and rely on many people who helped me with note taking, writing papers and studying for exams. I utilized Fern in the academic center and tutors as much as possible. I was determined to figure it out, starting with the language. I remember sending text messages to people in my first semester and getting question mark replies. They had no clue what I was saying so it made for some interesting conversations. I felt if I gave it my all in school then it would help me grow more confident and also give me opportunities after graduation. I used the same work ethic in tennis and began seeing results on court. They worked hand in hand.
I am so grateful for the many people that were involved with my growth as a student and an athlete. It has had a huge impact in my life and I will never forget it. It has been an honor to be voted captain by my teammates this year and do my best to lead the squad in the right direction. I remember my first match like it was yesterday and now I am playing in some of my last ones. It's sad how quick the time has gone but the memories of matches (like beating Ole Miss at SECs last year) and people (like the Crimson Racket Club) will last forever.
The third day of the weekend would be a doozy with three matches on tap for the Tide on Sunday. The Volunteers were first followed by a pair against Nicholls State. Scott Coogler and Bony Barrineau wheeled in their super grill along with 55 slabs of ribs for a Senior Day Cookout, free for all in attendance (a HUGE thank you to Scott and Bony!). The bbq was a definite must as fans could probably smell the ribs cooking from the Interstate up to North River. An incredible spread for all to enjoy along with many other fixings and desserts contributed by the Crimson Racket Club board. Members of the Million Dollar Band played loud and proud during the pre-match warm-up and the home atmosphere was established. This was to be the final regular season home match for Daniil and Brian as they were presented with their senior gifts once again and walked out to the courts with family and friends. Director of Athletics Bill Battle hit his honorary first serve to Daniil while Brian Conlon Sr. served up a ball to his son, BC. The Tide was ready and the 4-hour battle began.
Doubles went back and forth on all the courts before the Volunteers struck first with a win at the No. 3 spot. Daniil and Becker then answered with an impressive win at the top position defeating the No. 1-ranked team in the country 8-6 (this came a week after beating the No. 2-ranked team at Texas A&M). Sean and Stuart were fighting their tails off but were broken late in their match to give Tennessee the coveted 1-0 lead. After a quick break, Bama returned to the courts confident in their ability to pick up four singles victories. Becker capped off a great day for himself individually by winning first for the Tide at the No. 2 hole. Stuart then followed up Beck's result with a resounding 3-set victory. The Vols had claimed a couple of spots as well so the score stood still at 3-2 Tennessee with roommates Daniil and Andrew left on court. Games lasted very long with servers saving break points and returners giving it their all to earn a service break. Back and forth, back and forth, the tug-of-war match continued until the visiting team snuck out a late service break and closed out the victory 4-2.
I couldn't have asked for more from our team as they really competed so well and gave it their all. Hats off to the Volunteers and now onto Rounds 2 & 3 of the day. Nicholls State had arrived much earlier and watched our opener while getting in a practice of their own. They were certainly going to challenge us for points and push us harder than we expected especially after a heartbreaker against Tennessee. We decided to play singles first in both matches and only play doubles should the score stand at 3-3 after singles. And so into the night we played, working just as hard as we did when the day got started. Hustling for balls, transitioning to the net and going after our shots. When it was all said and done, the Tide had secured a pair of 4-0 victories and were now ready to feast on some leftover ribs. We all gathered in the team lounge and ate as much as possible while also diving into a cake with pictures of Daniil and Brian imprinted in the frosting. We talked about the food, the Masters and getting some good sleep. A full weekend of competition was finished with the final hurdle of the regular season to come in Nashville.
So here we are, ready to compete and fight `til the bitter end (a popular quote of Ryler and Andrew). We know what's ahead of us - Gamecocks to be exact - and we know what's on the line. The opportunity to take things one match at a time in the SEC Championships has arrived and this is what we have prepared for all season. 28 matches complete with #29 to begin on Thursday, April 17 at 12 p.m. If you're near Nashville please stop by Vandy to cheer on the Tide. If you're unable to make it here, get live scoring by going to rolltide.com and cheer your hearts out from home. This has been an incredible season thus far and we're ready to kick it into high gear for the stretch run. See you at the finish line.