Game. Set. Match. Let the Season Begin!

Tennis Drops Opener
Tripoom TJ Jala projects the ball across the court as he follows through with a backhand swing.
Tripoom “TJ” Jala projects the ball across the court as he follows through with a backhand swing.
Staff Photo

Men’s Tennis opened its Spring 2024 season Sat., Feb. 17, on their home courts in a match against Hampden-Sydney College.

While perhaps the game lacked in the favoring of the Panthers, with a scored loss of 0-9, the team is not discouraged. They have only the highest hopes for the season to come.

Rod Baker, head coach, expressed only pride for his 2024 roster as he watched the match that chilly Saturday morning.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got some really good matches going on,” said Baker. “Now, we’re playing together, and they’re feeling really good about their future playing together, so, ya know–it’s a good eye opener for what the rest of the season is going to hold.”

All around, both the team and coach are feeling optimistic for Spring Tennis 2024. Baker is particularly excited to see just how far his doubles teams will go this year.

“I think I am more excited for our doubles teams,” Baker explained. “Right now, our doubles teams are playing amazing.”

Baker emphasized the promise of his number one doubles partners, Kevin Nester, junior, and Tripoom “TJ” Jala, junior.

“I am looking forward to TJ and Kevin,” Baker asserted. “Kevin is currently coming off of a knee injury, but once he’s back to healthy, I think that they can really do some damage.”

And, according to Baker, damage, on the court, is exactly what the team as a whole aims to do.

We’re kinda trying to stay more aggressive this year than we have in the past,” Baker elaborated.  “In the past,  it’s been kinda like, ‘let’s see what we can get out of this,’ and now, I’m taking more of a ‘Let’s plant our feet and take a good swing at everybody we possibly can.’

Will Davis, junior, thinks that with the improved mindset and morale, the team will be able to fulfill this expectation. He compares this season to his prior seasons.

“I would say that compared to seasons before, the morale has improved for sure. There’s definitely a sense of fight in us, ya know?” Davis remarked. “You can feel it throughout the whole team. Everyone’s hungry to play, and we’re just, we’re a family this year.”

Gabriel Alaverez, sophomore, and Jairo Herbez, freshman, comprise the number two doubles pair on the team, and only validate the family-like feel of Men’s Tennis, according to Baker.

“They’re doing really well, they’re doing really well right now,” Baker conveyed. “They have a good connection, and they can both speak Spanish to each other,  so no one else knows what they are talking about. So it really works out.”

Nester, ranking number one in his doubles team and number three in the team’s singles, also spoke highly of the team’s promise this year.

“We’ve got a lot more talent than we have had since I’ve been here, and we work so well together this year,” Nester commented. “We have our line-ups stacked, and guys who can play both aggressively and keep it under control.”

Davis expressed only further confidence.

That was a very talented team we were up against,” Davis said, “and I feel confident about our team and this season.”

Nester agreed, speaking on behalf of his own performance at the opening match as well, in particular regard to his recovery. Nester recently suffered from a knee injury on the courts.

“I’m feeling great,” Nester announced with a smile. “First off, we didn’t have the result that we wanted today, but knocking some of that rust off, and as soon as I get back to what I know I am capable of, we’ll be alright.” 

Even the bitter, wind-stricken weather conditions and heightened nerves that were brought alongside the opener aren’t enough to hold back the Men’s Tennis, the team says.

Overall, Baker’s main goal for the Panthers is to change the mentality toward the sport, as he says the team’s fire has slowly dwindled over the years.

We want to change the mindset that, yeah, I get it–we’re Ferrum, and maybe we don’t have the best facility–but we’re gonna come out and give you everything we possibly can.”

The spring season will continue, with upcoming matches against Guilford on the home courts on Sun., Feb. 25.

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