Cancellations hamper tennis team’s progress

For head tennis coach Ron Headlee, cancellations and postponements have led to a frustrating spring so far.

Ever since the team traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a pair of matches between March 2-4, the Waynesburg men’s tennis team did not compete in a match again until March 29, which was the beginning of Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) play as the team fell to Bethany, 6-3.

Between Hilton Head and the Bethany match, the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 0-1) were supposed to face Penn State Altoona March 15, for what Headlee called a “tune-up,” but it was postponed. Following Bethany, another “tune-up” match against Ohio Christian was cancelled this past Saturday.

“I think that was the main reason that really attributed to the loss at Bethany. Bethany had four matches here within the past two weeks and we hadn’t played since Hilton Head,” said Headlee. “We were supposed to play Penn State Altoona…we got that one cancelled, and so, I thought our guys were a little nervous in the first PAC match where we have to get some of those jitters out a little bit and just playing and feeling comfortable with yourself.”

The Yellow Jackets had another PAC match Wednesday past publication date against Thiel, and then will follow that up with a non-conference affair against Frostburg State in Frostburg, Maryland and their third PAC match of the year against Westminster.

“That’s why we are trying to get these matches in this week, just more court time, just being out on the court and you can practice a lot but until you get yourself in those tight situations, it’s a totally different thing when your adrenaline starts flowing,” said Headlee.

Frostburg State is off to a 4-3 start this year but is in the midst of a three-match losing skid. Westminster finished just above Waynesburg in the 2017-18 standings in sixth place, but this year the Titans are off to an 0-8 start, including 0-3 in conference action thus far.

“I think they’re all winnable matches for us this week if we play well and just tune up and getting ready for Westminster,” Headlee said. “Westminster has a really good number one…Bethany had beat them earlier in the year. So, I think we can match up with them.”

Leading the way for Waynesburg so far are seniors Jonah Cooper and Josh Denham. Cooper and Denham are both 4-3 at number one and two in singles, respectively. When the two have played together as a duo, however, they have gone 6-1, enough to be the best double pair for the Yellow Jackets.

Headlee has mulled over splitting up his two best players in an effort to spread out the talent a little but said the chemistry the two have in doubles is too great to break up.

“You go back and forth on whether you should split them up and have a strong person with another freshman, but I think they just know each other really well on the court,” said Headlee. “They’ve been playing together for three years now and I just think they know each other and have a good feel.”

The team has also benefitted from major contributions from a pair of freshmen in Joe English and Connor Cassidy. English is 3-4 this season at third singles, while Cassidy is 5-2 at fourth singles. As a duo the two have gone 4-3 in the second doubles pairing.

“They’re coming in and playing really well. I just really think that the more they play, the more confidence they’re going to get and that’s what I’m looking for, just trying to get them more confidence as they play and believe in their strokes a little bit more and staying in the games a little bit longer,” said Headlee. “They have a tendency to try and hit winners right off the bat and trying to end the point quick, but just staying in the points a little bit longer and being a little patient.”

All in all, Headlee feels good going into the weekend, believing that they have two very winnable matches against Frostburg State and Westminster. Friday’s match starts at 4 p.m., while Saturday’s match against Westminster will be at home at 12 p.m.

“I think we can win all three,” Headlee said. “We have had some really good practices and the guys are working hard at practice. I think they’re focused more this year during practices—they want to get better, they have a goal of being in that top four, so I definitely think we can get there and make the tournament at the end. That’s what our goal is. I was looking and I think our last winning record was 2009, so that’s one of our goals—to have a winning record. The guys are just working towards that.”