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BU Tennis Hits the Court for Patriot League Championships

Terrier men begin play this weekend, women April 27

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With regular-season play behind them, both the BU men’s and the women’s tennis team have their sights set on the Patriot League tournaments.

The men’s league finale, hosted by Navy, gets under way in Annapolis, Md., today, with the championship on Sunday, April 23. BU is set to begin competition tomorrow, April 21, in the men’s quarterfinals. The women’s tournament, hosted by Lehigh, is still a week away; it will be played April 27 to 30 in Bethlehem, Pa.

The women’s draw is scheduled to be released next week, but the men know their opening-round opponent. As the fourth seed, the Terriers square off with fifth-seeded Colgate at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

The men’s spring season was highlighted by a win over Navy, the program’s first defeat of the Midshipmen since joining the Patriot League in 2013. Navy eliminated the Terriers in both the 2014 and 2015 Patriot League semifinals.

Given that Navy had taken BU out in two consecutive playoffs, that victory was “a pretty big win for us,” says men’s head coach Dejan Stankovic (SED’10,’15). “It was nice to get them back.”

The Terriers’ performance this season has Stankovic confident that his team has what it takes to capture its first Patriot League title. “Our mind-set is we’re going in to win it, because we can,” he says. “We’ve beaten these schools that have won it in the past, so I think this year we have a really good shot.”

BU played an arduous spring schedule this year, with more matches than in previous years, says Jake De Vries (COM’17), but he thinks the grind has sharpened the Terriers heading into their biggest weekend of the year.

“We’ve had a pretty long season. We’ve had ups and downs, and we’ve played a lot of good teams,” he says. “We’re as tested and ready to play for three days in a row at the tournament as we’ve ever been. I think everyone is playing their best tennis at this point, and we have four seniors heading in, so we have a lot of tournament experience.”

The fate of the Terriers’ season and the program’s seniors rests on their performance this weekend, but De Vries says that hasn’t changed the way they prepare. “It’s normal stuff—eat right, hydrate now. All the training we’ve done all semester and all fall is leading up to this, so if we’re not ready now, then we’re not ready,” he says. “But I think we are.”

Stankovic says the team’s seniors are leaving a legacy they can be proud of. “The senior class has done a lot for our team over the four years, but this year especially,” he says. “The culture that they’ve built on the team is so strong, and they’ve made the team the closest it’s been since I took over.”

Madison Craft and the BU women’s tennis team head to Lehigh University next weekend for the Patriot League championship, which begins April 27.

Madison Craft (SAR’17) and the BU women’s tennis team head to Lehigh University next weekend for the Patriot League championship, which begins April 27.

Women going after fourth consecutive Patriot League title

Women’s tennis head coach Lesley Sheehan (SED’84) acknowledges that her team, which has won the Patriot League tournament three years in a row, has had an up-and-down season after losing its top two players to graduation last May.

“Our team is young compared to what we’ve had in the past. I’ve asked all my players to move up in the lineup,” Sheehan says. “It’s been challenging, and I don’t think that any of us are happy about some of the results. We’ve lost some matches that we definitely should have won.”

That said, the Terriers should ride a 3-1 Patriot League record to second seed in the tournament as they attempt to win their fourth title in a row next weekend.

Players are confident that despite the season’s bumps, they can still manage another Patriot League title. “We’ve been able to build up our game,” Madison Craft (SAR’17) says. “I think we’ve gotten better and better as the season’s gone on, and we’re going to peak at conference next week. It’s a really exciting time. I know the team’s really ready to play in the tournament.”

The Terriers will use the extra week of preparation to hone their mental game. On April 15, in their last match prior to the tournament, a 2-4 loss to Army, a handful of deuce points helped cost them the match. Deuce points are more critical than ever, as collegiate tennis now scores using a no-ad (no-advantage) system, where the player who scores the next point after a deuce wins the game. This is a departure from the typical scoring system, where one player must earn an advantage in such situations, then win another consecutive point to take the game.

“I think that going into this tournament, there is pressure on us since we have won it so many times,” Sheehan says. “They’ve got to play the big points well, so we’re going to work on that.”

Win or lose next weekend, Craft says, she and fellow senior Barbara Rodriguez (CAS’17) have tried to lead by example.

“I think we’ve kind of come together this year, and we have this great dynamic,” she says. “I hope that I’ve been able to leave a legacy or culture for our team of going to practice and working hard every day, giving it your all in all the matches, and also having fun.”

The BU men’s tennis team begins play in the Patriot League tournament tomorrow, Friday, April 21, in Annapolis, Md. The four-day championship tournament concludes Sunday, April 23. The BU women’s tennis team competes in the Patriot League tournament next week, April 27 through April 30, in Bethlehem, Pa.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

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