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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023

Men's tennis on 16-match win streak, haven't lost since January

Fernando Guardia shows off his backhand.
Fernando Guardia shows off his backhand.

The Mercer men’s tennis team has won more contests since Feb. 1 of this year than they did during the entire 2015-2016 season.

Since losing 4-0 to Florida Atlantic on Jan. 15, the Bears (17-2) have won 16 straight including a 5-2 win over conference rival Wofford on March 14.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” said Sam Philp, a junior on the team. “We’ve never been on anything like this. I’ve never personally been on a roll like this . . . so it’s definitely something different. You can feel it within the team. Everybody’s got a lot of confidence. We’re all clicking together.”

The streak has included some blowout wins including 7-0 victories over Berry College and the Citadel, but also some nail biting 4-3 wins over Appalachian State and Charlotte.

The turning point in the season came in that early season game against Charlotte, Philp said.

“That was a great win,” he said. “We fought back from behind. After that, I think, the team really realized how good we were. Everybody sort of started to trust each other after that match.”

The team has improved dramatically from their 10-16 mark last season — having only been 4-11 at this point in 2016 — with very little upperclassmen presence. There are no seniors. Philp and Belgian Ruben Vanoppen are the only juniors. Philp said he and Vanoppen have had to step into leadership roles and show the youngsters the ropes, but for the most part, the team is good about directing itself.

“Everybody is pretty good about leading themselves in a way,” he said. “[Ruben and I] haven’t had to give the team much direction. Everybody sort of knows what to do and how to go about it.”

The Bears have one more out of conference match against Georgia Southwestern on March 18, a game that was rescheduled after being postponed on Feb. 18. After that, the Bears enter a long stretch of Southern Conference play. Mercer will stay home to play ETSU, UNCG and Samford, and make trips to Furman and Chattanooga.

“I’m definitely nervous about conference play. We’ve always been in a tough conference with some good teams,” Philp said. “We have some high expectations, but I think we can achieve what we want to achieve — a championship. It’s really going to test us.”

The Bears close their season against Kennesaw State on the road.


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