By Dalton Ray–
The Louisville women’s tennis team has finally let its tough schedule set in on them. After starting the year 9-1, the Cards have dropped 12 of their last 14 matches and fell to 11-13 after the 4-1 loss against Florida State this past Friday. The game against the Seminoles saw the two seniors get acknowledged for their careers with U of L, Manuela Velasquez and Rebecca Bodine.
Coach Mark Beckham had mixed emotions on Senior Day as he saw his veteran seniors participate in one of their last matches at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center.
“Both of those girls are the definition of competitor, they’re warriors. With Becky, she could have played this year if I pushed her but I just couldn’t do it. Last year she was in pain so much, yet whenever I would ask her ‘How are you feeling?’ she would always say ‘I’m good coach, I’m good’ and that’s the kind of person she is. Manuela has always been the same way. She’s been a little dinged-up, but when it’s match time she’s ready to go and her effort would always put her in a position to win. I’m forever grateful to have two girls with that kind of attitude on my team.”
Despite an emotional day due to festivities, Beckham still has a straightforward way at looking at their games.
“Our margin for error is so small right now, one of our better players has been out so when you have that it makes it even tougher. We get negative a little too quickly, a lot of these teams are very good but we should still be able to beat some of the teams we’ve played.”
The No. 69 ranked Noles would jump up early on the Cardinals and wouldn’t let up. The doubles team of Daneika Borthwick and Yukako Noi would take down U of L’s Manuela Velasquez and Elle Stokes 8-1, followed by Mia Vriens and Kerrie Cartwright defeating Cassie Pough and Jessie Lynn Paul 8-2. The doubles point would go to FSU.
Stokes and Velasquez would both face off against ranked opponents in No. 69 Borthwick and No. 89 Cartwright. The lone victory from the day came from Velasquez as she knocked off Cartwright 6-3, 6-2. Afterwards, she spoke about her victory and advice for the underclassmen for next season.
“It felt great today knowing that I could do my part for the team and for my coaches because they’ve done nothing but support me,” says Velasquez. “Also, it was for my teammate Becky who wasn’t able to finish out her senior year. It was bitter sweet but it was for them.
“Being mentally tough is huge for the girls next year. I don’t think they see how crucial it is just yet. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If you have the hard work and mental strength, you can beat anybody and they’ll end up seeing that.”
As the season winds down, the experience the younger players have gained is something they can’t get anywhere else. With one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the team has seen firsthand how good the ACC is and what they have to do to achieve wins. While it hasn’t been the greatest year, Beckham isn’t discouraged at all.
“The one thing I will say about this group is that they don’t give up. They put in the effort at practice and do whatever I put them through. That’s the reason why I know this team is going to be really good, the overall talent is some of the best I’ve had here.
“The freshmen don’t know how to get through these type of situations yet. When Manuela was a freshman, she was fortunate to have older players to help her through. With the girls now, there’s only one senior so it’s a little tougher, right now it may not be great for them but they’ll be able to look back and see how much this helped them.”
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal