Winstom-Salem, NC will be the site for the Wake Forest Invite. Men’s tennis will be competing in it with a slew of other teams from the region. After good showings at the Georgia Southern Championships and NC State Invite, the Eagles are heading into the weekend with high hopes.
“This past weekend, we had a good tournament here and the guys that went to NC State,” said Head Coach Sander Koning. “I’m hoping that we can build upon that and have similar results at Wake Forest. Right now, we’ve had two tournaments that we get to the semi-finals and the finals of the draw. If we’re able to do that, and maybe push even further, that’d be great. I know at Wake Forest, there will be a lot of good teams. So it’ll be tough.”
Some of the expected teams are normal high-placers like Wake Forest, UNC and Old Dominion; teams known for having good tennis programs.
UNC had a player reach the singles final at the NC State Invite nearly a week ago. Old Dominion had a team of two win the ITA Regionals back on Oct. 20. Both teams are doing comparatively well and should be rivals on Nov. 6.
“There’s going to be a bunch of teams there that have been ranked, or were ranked in the past. That’s going to be good for our guys to play against that kind of competition,” said Koning. “Our conference, the Sun Belt Conference, last year at one point, had four teams ranked. We need to be able to compete against those guys if we want to do anything this season.”
After Wake Forest, the team will take part in the College of Charleston Invite. That will be the last scheduled individual tournament before the team season begins in January. Team competition play will carry on through April and end with the Sun Belt Championship in New Orleans, LA.
“I am excited for the team season. I really am,” said Koning. “We’re actually bringing in another guy so we’ll have 12 total.”
“From what I’ve gathered with information and results, we should be stronger across the board. Not necessarily stronger with one or two people; I think we’ll have more depth.”
“Last year, we had two guys that got injured and it’s always tough to fill certain spots. If somebody is playing hard in the line-up, if he gets hurt, then every other guy has to move up, and sometimes guys aren’t really ready for it.”
Individual play in fall is always different from team competition in spring. The team has to prepare differently, and the experience can be unraveling.
“You go through the ups-and-downs together,” said Koning. “The individual season, it’s more: one person can do really well, and have a really good tournament, but the other guy loses in the first round or something. With the team season, it’s all about the team: win together or lose together.”
“Even if an individual wins or loses in the team match, it’s all the team. You have to get four points somehow, some way. I think that’s always the neat concept about it.”
In team play, there are six singles matches and one series of doubles matches. When a singles match is won, or the series of doubles matches is won, the team acquires one team point. The first team to get four points wins the match.
The tournaments the Eagles have taken part in now have been singles and doubles events. The team can be rated on their overall performance, but each player is more invested in their own play. Things change when the spring season hits.
“To me, it’s a little more energy within the team with dual matches when you play against another team,” said Koning. “It’s a lot more energy to win the match or support your teammates compared to the individual tournaments.”
The individual season still has two more opportunities for the Eagles to see what they have to offer before entering the spring. Wake Forest will be bringing high-level competition and the College of Charleston Invite won’t be having any sleepers either.
“I’m looking forward to these two tournaments,” said Koning. “We have two weeks to get better and build up on that. We’ll practice hard, moving forward, and see where we’re going to be at for the Wake Forest tournament. I think that’ll be a good indication of where the guys are at.”
“I truly hope that they see the work they put in will show up in the way they play at that tournament.”
The Wake Forest Invite will be Friday, Nov. 6 through Sunday, Nov. 8. It will be in Winston-Salem, NC.