Tennessee's men's and women's tennis teams are gearing up for a weekend filled with important SEC matches.
Both teams are hoping to move up in their conference standings before the SEC tournament next week. The Vols (18-6, 7-3 SEC) will be facing Kentucky and Vanderbilt while the Lady Vols (16-9, 2-9 SEC) will be battling Missouri and Arkansas.
After an exciting win against Alabama (5-2), the Vols are using their confidence to prepare for this weekend. The Vols are currently ranked fifth in the SEC standings and are hoping to move ahead of teams like Kentucky (7-3 SEC) and Florida (8-3 SEC).
"This weekend is obviously a big weekend," Chris Woodruff said. "This whole season has really been a process of taking it one day at a time and one practice at a time. We have about ten days to prepare for the SEC tournament and just make the necessary adjustments. Things are rolling in the right direction, and we're still looking for that complete duel match."
The Vols are currently ranked no. 24 in the ITA standings, trailing Kentucky (7-3 SEC) and Vanderbilt (6-4 SEC). The Vols are preparing for the challenges both teams will bring.
"Each school presents its own challenges," Woodruff said. "In this case, both teams present challenges on all parts of the lineup. We're well aware of those challenges so we'll try to prepare the best we can."
As their season draws to a close, the Vols are getting ready to send off their only senior, Luis Valero. Both coaches and players alike are preparing for this bittersweet parting, especially Valero's doubles partner, Preston Touliatos.
"I didn't really think him and I would get paired up together to play but we did and it has worked well,” Touliatos said. “We know each other pretty well and we've lived with each other for going on three years now so it's been fun and enjoyable to play with him."
The Vols will face off against Kentucky this Friday at 6 p.m. and Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
Coming off tough losses against Mississippi State (2-4) and Ole Miss (0-4), the Lady Vols are hoping to get more SEC wins under their belt before the upcoming tournament. The Lady Vols are currently ranked 10th in the SEC and will be going up against Arkansas (2-9 SEC) and Missouri (0-11 SEC).
"We need to view frustration as excitement," Alison Ojeda said. "Our team needs to understand that we've made a massive jump, and to be honest, we made it a lot quicker than I thought we would, so that's fantastic."
The Lady Vols are fighting through some illness that hit the team in the past week and preparing to play their best this weekend. Freshman Kaitlin Staines was named SEC Freshman of the Week last week and hopes to show her skills during her upcoming matches.
"Staines is the glaringly obvious one you have to watch," Ojeda said. "She's able to play at a very high level, so she's going to maximize her efforts."
Staines is not the only player ready for this weekend. Junior Sadie Hammond has been preparing to help her team work their way up the standings this weekend as well.
"We've all been putting in the work day-in and day-out," Hammond said. "For myself, it's just about finding my rhythm and staying in that."
The Lady Vols will face off against Missouri this Thursday at 6 p.m. and Arkansas this Saturday at 12 p.m. at Barksdale Stadium.