Men’s tennis: Winning takes swag

Idaho State University’s tennis program has been in the middle of a massive rebuilding effort for the past few years. On the men’s side, they haven’t posted a winning record since the 2006 season but last year marked the first time since then that they’ve had a realistic shot at making some noise in post-season play.
Despite narrowly missing the conference tournament, the team was able to show quite a bit of promise for the coming season; with time and patience, it looks like men’s tennis is finally on the upswing.
“We really want to make the conference tournament this year,” said Nate Gross, a senior on Idaho State University’s men’s tennis team.
Considering that just a few years ago the Bengals went 0-18, the fact that they could realistically make the conference tournament is a testament to just how much change has occurred in the program. The change hasn’t necessarily been about recruiting better players or improving head coach Bobby Goeltz’s staff, although both have played a part; most of it is about developing a winning attitude.
“I’ve seen a change in the intensity and work ethic [of the team],” said Gross when comparing this season’s roster to others he has been a part of.
Last season the Bengals were painfully close to making the conference tournament, needing only two more victories to secure a spot. This year they said they hope to make enough changes to be successful. Part of reaching that goal will be remembering what it is that has made them successful in the past.
“All of us have had success, maybe not great success, but all of us have won matches. We know how to win,” said Gross.
The Bengals did extremely well at home but were abysmal on the road. It’s a trait that is shared among many young teams and a trend that holds true across all sports. Part of making the transition from an up-and-coming team to one that is relevant now is winning on the opponent’s home court.
This isn’t just something that can be supported by statistics but a trait of this team that Gross sees as the biggest key to making the conference tournament. Coming into the final match of the 2012 season, the Bengals still hadn’t won on the road in a non-neutral environment; Utah State would be the only team they would beat. There are several reasons why Gross said he thinks this could have happened but he’s not making any excuses.
“Court surfaces are different, some are faster or slower, but that’s not the reason why we didn’t do well. We have to pull it together on the road,” said Gross.
The killer instinct to win on the road is something that can only be developed in tournament situations.
“We’ve got to bring it to the court day in and day out. It’s hard to get that during practice because it’s not a game situation,” said Gross.
Gross has a chance to make his mark as well. With a career record of 28-23 he is one of Idaho State’s most successful and consistent players.

Send to Kindle