The 38th-ranked Tennessee women’s tennis team will look to right a ship that has tread on rough waters as it hosts Auburn, Alabama and Western Kentucky this weekend.
The Lady Vols (13-7, 0-7 SEC) began the season with a blazing 12-0 start, but have since struggled to gain any traction, notching a paltry 1-7 record in their last eight matches. After already facing a rigorous schedule, the Lady Vols just experienced arguably the toughest weekend of their schedule.
They traveled on the road to face two top-20 SEC teams in second-ranked Vanderbilt and 20th-ranked Kentucky. Despite the struggles, head coach Alison Ojeda had a lot of positive takeaways from the weekend.
“Vandy is number two in the country and we went out and competed with them in two of the three spots in (doubles) real closely,” Ojeda said. “Won one of them. The other one, I feel like we actually learned quite a few things. And then the last match, to be honest, we just got blown off the court.
“But then when we go into singles, when you’re down a point in the past, you get some teams that would respond in a way that doesn’t really, in my opinion, allow you to get better. And our team responded in a great way.”
The Lady Vols have competed very well in their matches, but have also had lots of instances where they come up just short of claiming points. In times like this it becomes a challenge to keep the team members motivated and engaged, but the ladies have done a great job of that.
“(The players) are doing an unbelievable job of motivating themselves,” Ojeda said. “When you’re playing the number two team in the country that close … they’re the ones that are putting themselves in a situation to constantly continue to motivate themselves. They go and they compete? They’re motivated to get better on Tuesday, Wednesday at practice.
“I think they’re doing that … You’ve got to keep staying on that track. Don’t let the losing get in the way of the fact that we’re developing and doing the right thing.”
The Lady Vols are looking to put its recent stretch of games behind them and try to get in the winning column against some formidable opponents this weekend.
“We need to literally compete for every single point,” Ojeda said. “Literally every single one. And if we can find a way to do that, then I think we can put ourselves in an incredible situation to get three wins.”
This week’s action kicks off on Thursday evening when the 15th-ranked Auburn Tigers come to Knoxville. The first serve is set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
On Saturday, the Lady Vols will battle against Alabama and Western Kentucky at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.