Men’s tennis set sights on conference


Hannah Spurgeon

Senior Joel Stern prepares to return a volley over the net during a practice during the fall semester.

Samuel Kiladejo said this year’s tennis team is closer than ever.

“Since I’ve been here for a year, it’s felt like more of a team,” Kiladejo said.

The sophomore said he made the transition from his European lifestyle, where playing tennis is more of a personal focus.

“(Tennis in London) is more about you, yourself,” he said. “(In the United States), it’s more about the team. We’re a really close unit.”

Despite the team’s dynamic, Kiladejo said it’s more intense than he expected and the experience is better than he thought it would be.

Kiladejo was one of the leading players in the team’s successful first weekend of spring matches.

First, the team beat Indiana University Southeast 9-0 before defeating Austin Peay State University 6-3.

Kiladejo said the team was confident going into its first match.

Head coach Chris Crawford said the team gelled well together.

“We showed we could bring it to a match court,” Kiladejo said.

He said the second match was a bit harder. He lost both his singles and doubles matches to Manuel Montenegro, a player from Spain.

“The main thing is that the team won and that’s what it’s all about,” Kiladejo said. “Picking up your teammates when they aren’t doing so well.”

Kiladejo said last year the team did some activities together, but nowhere near as many as they do now. The team studies together, plays other sports together and gets together for dinner.

Crawford said the group doesn’t have much of a choice but to be closer. The study times are mandatory, and with 11 players, the group sees a lot of each other.

The team is larger than it has been in previous years and Kiladejo said he thinks it is a strength for the team.

“I think it’s an advantage having more people on the team,” he said. “It makes it more competitive… if we have a smaller team, people might get complacent.”

Crawford said right now the team is really deep. They have talent throughout the roster.

The team has two seniors, Jack Joyce and Joel Stern, who Crawford expects to lead the team.

Joyce said he and Stern have been the oldest on the team for two years now since there were no seniors on the team last year.

He said his main focus as a leader on the team is making the younger members feel comfortable. He said it can be hard for international students to be so far from home.

Joyce said since a majority of the same players were on the team last year, they have learned who works best together both on and off the court.

“You feel more comfortable around the team,” Joyce said. “You can come out of your shell… instead of worrying about proving something.”

Crawford said the team goal this year is to win conference.

“We’ve got more of a mature (team) this year,” Crawford said. “I think (winning conference) very well in our sights. We are just as good as any team in our conference.”