The University of Memphis men’s tennis team has played a brutal schedule to so far in 2016, with 15 of its first 17 matches coming against programs ranked in the top 75 in the country, and that experience is starting to pay off in the form of dominating victories late in the season.
The Tigers (12-8, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) played two doubleheaders last week, with Memphis dropping the first contest 0-4 to No. 42 Dartmouth, but bounced back in a big way with three consecutive 7-0 wins over Jackson State, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and AAC foe Temple.
Jackson State and UAPB have struggled heavily this season, with records of 5-9 and 1-18, respectively, but Temple is 14-5 on the year, making Memphis’ 7-0 margin of victory even more impressive.
“Anytime you’re playing a conference match your guys get a little more pumped up for it,” Memphis coach Paul Goebel said. “We came out with some good energy. We played well, and it was nice to get that doubles point and give us the momentum for singles. I feel it’s that way for a lot of teams, but for us it’s definitely a very important point. We work on it a lot.”
Memphis has only three regular season matches remaining before the start of the conference tournament April 21, with the next two coming away from home this weekend.
“Two tough matches on the road, playing in Murfreesboro,” Goebel said. “We play MTSU and VCU, both very good opponents. We played them both last year and they were both very hard-fought matches, and we’re expecting the same this year.”
While two of the Tigers’ last three victories have come against weaker competition, that won’t be the case this weekend. VCU is 14-6 on the season, while MTSU will enter the match against Memphis at 14-5.
The Tigers have their work cut out for them, but one advantage going the U of M’s way is momentum. Memphis is entering the weekend fresh off of three straight 7-0 victories, while MTSU has dropped two of its last three matches, and VCU has lost three of its previous four.
In order to come away with wins this weekend, Memphis will likely rely on more excellent play out of Ryan Peniston. The sophomore out of Great Britain has been on a tear this season, with an overall record 26-8. Peniston is on a five-match win streak, tied with sophomore Andrew Watson for the longest on the team.
If the Tigers are able to snag two victories over MTSU and VCU, it will put them in excellent position to close the season. Memphis would then be entering the final match of the season against USF on a five-match win streak, with an opportunity to improve that streak to six and enter the conference tournament playing its best tennis of the season.
Memphis will first take on MTSU at 2 p.m. Friday, and then play VCU the next day at 12 p.m. Both matches are hosted by MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
University of Memphis sophomore tennis player Ryan Peniston hits the ball against Temple in an earlier match this season. Peniston has a 26-8 individual record.