Jeff Zinn made it no secret to his team that they did not have a great fall season, but the head coach expects them to win in the spring.
“ ‘I’ve heard enough excuses, now go out and play,’ ” Zinn said. “We’re better. They’re better than they’ve been playing or producing, so it’s time to play. You came here to play big time tennis.”
The Nittany Lions will open up their spring schedule with their first home action of the year for three matches at the Indoor Tennis Facility. The Lions will take on No. 40 North Carolina State at noon Saturday followed by a doubleheader against No. 69 Cornell and Cleveland State on Sunday.
Zinn said the fall struggles may be attributed to the tough schedule the team faced, but he said if his team is going to be one of the best, it has to play the best and at a high level.
Senior captain Bryan Welnetz said this past fall was tougher than previous falls, but Zinn was trying to make the schedule realistic in preparation for the spring.
“You don’t always get the most out of it if you play an easy schedule,” the Laredo, Texas native said. “I think playing a hard schedule, you get to see all different levels and our schedule this spring is going to be tough against tough opponents like it was in the fall.”
Welnetz said Zinn has stressed discipline in practice, so that will be instrumental to victory, along with playing smart, loose tennis and remaining composed.
Freshman Roman Trkulja said the first few months of collegiate tennis has improved his physical and mental game in preparation for this weekend. The Toronto native also said the doubles point will be key and that Zinn said the Lions have improved that aspect of their game since the beginning of the year.
Zinn said the goal for the weekend is to go 3-0, as always, even if some people think it is an unrealistic ambition.
“I came to Penn State for one reason and that was to turn around a program,” the second-year coach said. “That was my sole reason to come here because I felt it had everything available to make us an elite program. We go out there and compete to the highest level.”
Zinn said he does not take any opponent lightly, but the Lions need to focus on ranked teams because beating the ranked teams are the only way the Lions will become ranked.
The Lions lost to the Wolfpack, 6-1, to open up their spring season last year, but defeated Cornell, 5-2, in Ithaca, N.Y., later in the year.
However, Zinn owned a superb record against NC State during his tenure at Wake Forest. But he said his past success against the Wolfpack as the Demon Deacons’ head coach does not mean anything because the teams are different.
Trkulja said a win over NC State would build confidence for the Lions and get the momentum rolling for the rest of the season.
Welnetz, who said he is going to try to have fun on the court during his last year as a Lion, also said the loss to the Wolfpack last year provided a long bus ride home, but NC State is a “beatable” team.
“We competed with them in every match [last year], so I think this year, we know where we stand against them, especially under our second year with Coach Zinn,” Welnetz said. “We have a better game plan against them.”