By Andrew Hornback
After a historic 2008-2009 season for the University of Louisville men’s tennis team, which included fourteen first time accomplishments, head coach Rex Ecarma will look to challenge his team to take the next step in becoming a national tennis power next season by putting together the toughest schedule in team history.
“When you have a team that is returning its top seven players from the year before, why wouldn’t you swing for the fences? I think any coach who returns his entire starting lineup wants to increase the challenge for his team. Obviously, they met the challenge from the previous year, and if you give them the same challenge, you’re basically giving them status quo. We want to go beyond status quo. I’m an ambitious coach and my players are ambitious, and they understand what we have to do to get to the top”, Ecarma said.
While Ecarma’s team fell just short of their goal of winning the Big East tournament after earning the No 1 seed, he notes the many positives that the team has to take away from the season as a whole.
“You always want to do better unless you win a national championship. We wanted to get in the Sweet 16 and to win the Big East, but again, there were fourteen first ever accomplishments, we triple crowned the NCAA tournament with having a singles and doubles team make it, as well as making it as a team. Austen making it to the NCAA singles tournament for the second year in a row, and him and Simon making it to the NCAA doubles tournament two years in a row, and for the first time we had three singles and three doubles teams nationally ranked”, Ecarma said.
Ecarma also noted that while the his team may have accomplished a lot last season, they have taken it for what it is worth and already began preparing for the upcoming year.
“They [the team] are working really hard in the weight room, on the track, and on the courts in the summer. Austen and Simon only took two days off from the end of last season. The work ethic in general of the team has gotten a lot better”, Ecarma said.
Although the 2009-10 schedule hasn’t been released yet, the Cards do know that they will participate in the Florida State regional of the 2010 ITA Men’s Kickoff Weekend.
“It’ll be an adjustment going from indoors to outdoors, so we’re going to get there early to begin practicing. Florida State lost three seniors in their starting lineup, so maybe we can sneak up on them. But we’ve never faced LSU, and they’re a top fifteen type of program. We have to go through them before we can even consider facing Florida State, but it’ll be interesting”, Ecarma said.
Another major change that will impact the Cards next season will be the moving of the Big East Tournament from South Florida, which has hosted the event every year Louisville has been a member of the Big East, to Notre Dame.
“I think it will help us, because we’re a team that can play indoors and outdoors well, and the climate is so different. It is really hot and humid by late April in Florida, but it is still kind of warm here. Going to Florida was a big change for us in the weather, and going to South Bend won’t be as dramatic as a change because the weather is similar”, Ecarma said.