Men’s tennis ride momentum into ODAC


John Bell

Mason Robb is a first-year member of the Guilford College men’s tennis team. The team was ranked second in the conference season poll./ Photo Courtesy of John Bell, Touch A Life Photography

Guilford men’s tennis cruises into the halfway mark of the season with a 4-2 record and a heavy loaded April month of matches.

The weather has been a detrimental factor to coach David McCain’s tennis team this year. Due to the unprecedented amount of snow during the month of March, five matches were rescheduled into the end of March or April and practice is often sparse. Since the roster this year consists of mostly first-year and sophomore athletes, this has made McCain’s job harder.

“When you have a lot of younger and inexperienced players, you must rely on coaching more,” said McCain. “Last year, I could take one of my players and let them go coach someone else. With (first-years), it just takes a little bit more explanation to get them to relax and have the comfort level they need.”

McCain titles athletes who he feels are responsible and professional as team captains. He understands that tennis is an individual sport, but he believes that when you have people to motivate you, it becomes a team sport.

“We try to make it as much of a team sport as we can,” said McCain. “The advantage of being on a team is that you have support from other people. So, it is important for each individual to do their best for the team to win.”

Sophomore Tate Godwin achieves the expectation McCain wants in a team captain. Godwin understands his role and says that the biggest part for him is communication.

“I have to make sure everyone knows where to be for practice, but more importantly, I have to get everyone in the right mindset for matches,” said Godwin. “Last year we had two captains who set the tone good for us, so I want to follow in their footsteps.”

Godwin, being a sophomore, also knows the expectations first-year tennis players often put on themselves as the season progresses.

“I know a couple of them can be hard on themselves and put a lot of pressure on themselves as (first-years),” says Godwin. “So, trying to lift them up and keep them (from) getting down on themselves is important. After warm ups before a match, we gather the team and speak a few words. Generally, I believe there is a lot of pressure on match day.”

The men’s tennis team has performed well this year. Undefeated in conference thus far, their only losses have come from teams out of conference. Coach McCain says that even though they lost, the experience of playing teams outside of conference will help the athletes become better as conference games roll in.

“Before we play our conference matches, we play as tough of teams (out of conference) as possible,” said McCain. “You expect to lose, but you gain experience by playing at a high level. We have not lost any in conference this year.”

The men’s tennis is 3-1 at home, and 2-1 in away matches. Their four wins have come with big margins, compiling a total of 30 matches won, as compared to the other teams winning only six all together.  The heart of conference play began March 31, where Guilford beat Randolph College, 8-1.

Both Godwin and McCain say that there are some teams in conference that will be difficult to beat. Guilford and nationally ranked Washington and Lee University, the preseason top two teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, clash April 20. McCain says that if his athletes remain healthy, they have a great shot at winning conference this year.

“Our goal is to win conference and to do that we need to keep everyone healthy,” said McCain. “We are going to have a good season even if everyone is not healthy because we are better than a lot of the (conference) teams.”

Senior Graham Pearson said he is looking forward to playing Washington and Lee, but understands that the team must take the season match by match.

“Our remaining schedule is fairly difficult, so we don’t want to overlook anyone we have to play,” said Pearson. “However, Washington and Lee have been dominating for years and is the one team in conference we have yet to beat during my time at Guilford. I think everyone on the team has that match circled in the schedule.”

The next competition for Guilford men’s tennis will be on April 7, where they head to Winchester, Virginia to play Shenandoah University.