COLLEGE TENNIS: UTPB rested for conference championships

For the UTPB men’s and women’s tennis teams, this week’s conference tournament has been a long time coming.
Not just because it’s been circled on the calendar since the first day of practice, but also because it’s been almost a month since both teams last competed.
As the Falcons prepare for the Lone Star Conference Championships that begin Thursday in Waco, they’ve tried to make the most of their three-week layover.
The tournament will start with the women’s quarterfinals and finish Saturday at the Waco Regional Tennis Center.
The Falcon women last competed at Texas A&M-Kingsville, losing 7-0 on April 7 on the road.
The UTPB men’s last outing was a 6-1 loss against Midwestern State on April 5 at home.
“We had about three weeks since our last competition and I would prefer 10 days to ice some players,” UTPB head coach Guillaume Gauthier. “But the nice thing is that we were able to manage our timeline by focusing on basics and work on the volume and consistency and as we got to the midpart of the second week, we started transitioning to the point play and everyone responded really well.
“Everyone gave themselves a goal to play 15 sets, prior to going into conference for the month of April. That’s the thing about this team: we’ve been able to set short-term goals and we’ve been able to reach them.”
The UTPB men (4-6 overall, 1-2 in conference) won’t have to wait long to get a rematch against the Mustangs as both teams will face each other in the semifinals at noon Friday.
 “The team is feeling pretty confident right now,” Marcos Silva said. “At the start of the season, we were playing on the road quite a lot and this month, we had a quick break from matches so that gave us some time to work on what we needed to work on. We’ve worked on our weak spots and now that we’re closer to the competition, we’re feeling prepared.”
The UTPB men enter the tournament in third place in the four-team standings in the conference, sitting ahead of Western New Mexico (3-9, 0-3).
But Gauthier has pointed out that there have been plenty of improvements from his team this year.
“We’re not trying to do anything out of the box,” Gauthier said. “We’re taking care of building points. Our kids are showing that. We had some kids win some important matches over the year. We’re taking care of the basics. For the most part, we’re taking care of the style of play.”
Doubles play has been one area of strength, according to Silva.
“Most of the time, we’ve played against a lot of really good teams,” Silva said. “It’s been hard to beat us in the doubles. Some days, we’ll have better depth and in our singles lineup, they can perform and get a point for us.”
In the Falcons’ last contest against Midwestern State, Silva and JD Ruiz won their doubles match against Angel Palacios and Denney Norrie 6-4.
UTPB’s Fernando Siqueira and Jorge Garcia also defeated the number eight doubles team in the nation from Midwestern State, beating Ben Westwick and Alberto Diaz 6-3 to wrap up the doubles point.
“We all rely on each other,” Silva said. “As a team, we know that it’s hard for all three doubles to perform to their maximum but this season, sometimes one of the other teams will step up and we’ve always relied on each other. We always have someone else scoring for us.”
Just like the men’s team, the UTPB women will also face Midwestern State in the first round at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Despite struggling this season, the UTPB women’s team (7-16, 0-4) is hoping that having recently played Midwestern State will be an advantage.
“Our women’s team has had a little bit rougher of a season in terms of record,” Gauthier said. “They had some great matches but we’re playing Midwestern State and the positive side is that we’ve seen Midwestern State and we know how we’ll line up with them. We’re going to put our heads together and figure out who will play who and use the past experiences to our advantage. We’ll play the best match possible in each match.”
The UTPB women lost to the Mustangs 7-0 on April 5.
UTPB enters the tournament sitting in last in the seven-team conference standings while Midwestern State (14-5, 4-2) sits in second. No. 1 Angelo State (18-3, 6-0) will get a first-round bye and play the winner of Cameron-Tarleton State.
But with four seniors on the team — Amelie Saint-Dizier, Stephanie Prats, Paulina Obreque and Madison Hoelting — the Falcons are looking to go out on a high note before graduating.
“We’re very excited for conference because almost half of the team is made up of seniors so we want to make the most of our last outing,” Saint-Dizier said. “We’re going in and not worrying about winning and losing.
“We’re just concerned with doing our best because we don’t know when our next match will be. Most of the girls are going in with the idea of just giving everything we’ve got and leaving everything on the court.”