The Penn State men’s tennis performance in doubles play left the team with some room for improvement after its opening tournament in Princeton, N.J.
Head coach Jeff Zinn said the team tried some new doubles combinations, but he would have liked to see a different outcome.
“I think we need work,” Zinn said. “I’m disappointed we lost.”
The duo of freshman Matt Barry and senior C.J. Griffin, as well as the pair of sophomore Ramy Labna and junior Chris Young, played for the first time competitively with each other in the Farnsworth/Princeton Invitational. Both teams lost to squads from Yale by more than five points.
Assistant coach Chris Cagle said there is one aspect of the Nittany Lions’ doubles play that the team will focus on.
“We’ll work quite a bit on first serve percentage and our return serves,” Cagle said. “Once we’ve got the point going, our volleys are doing fairly well.”
Zinn said earlier in the year that there is a strong emphasis on doubles tennis in collegiate competition because of how team scoring works. When the Lions start competing in team tournaments, they will play three doubles flights before singles. Whichever team wins two of three flights will win one point toward its final score before entering the six singles matches.
Griffin said earning the doubles point before the individual competition begins is key to winning the team match.
“It’s definitely important to get that good start,” Griffin said. “If you win the doubles, everybody has a little more confidence.”
Zinn said he is stressing doubles because the team has exceptional singles players, and he would like to see them be better doubles players, as well.
“In college tennis, you have to be a good singles player and a good doubles player,” Zinn said. “We’re trying to get guys to do things that maybe they’re not quite comfortable with.”
The team received a boost when the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranked junior Russell Bader and freshman Roman Trkulja No. 28 in the doubles preseason polls, which were released earlier this month.
Bader said his trip to the NCAA doubles tournament last year with former player Jason Lee helped his game personally. He said it showed him what he needed to work on, and he saw what it takes to do well from the competition.
Griffin said the ITA ranking gives Bader and Trkulja more confidence heading into the year. Griffin also said Bader’s run to the NCAA tournament helps the team in the learning process.
“The experience that Russell got with Jason going to the NCAA’s is definitely good for everyone,” Griffin said. “He gets the experience, and he gets to share that with us.”