EAST LANSING, Mich. –The statistics look grim: a six-match losing streak, winless in conference play, and a sub-.500 record. All things that would have most teams down in the dumps.
But not Michigan State men’s tennis.
Having played eight of their past 13 matches against ranked opponents and not winning a single one, the Spartans have seen their record drop to 10-12 following a 7-2 start. But coach Gene Orlando remains upbeat about the rest of the year.
“We’re just looking to try and improve with every match,” said Orlando. “Putting in some great days of practice in a week so we’re prepared going into match day, and once we’re in the match, we have a great opportunity to come out with the win.”
Injuries to players like John Patrick Mullane and Brett Forman have opened the door for other players to play at a higher level. Although it has been a transition period, with the Spartans failing to register a point in three of their last four matches, it’s something that can be built upon for the stretch run.
“It gives us a lot of experience, but then it comes down to the balance of winning and losing,” said Orlando. “It’s still an individual game played in a team format so it’s tricky. But with confidence and everything, you still try and tell the guys to don’t let it get in your head, just play your game and go for it.”
Despite the lack of success on the court, the atmosphere around the team and in the locker-room remains upbeat, with players joking around with one another even on the eve of an important two-match Big Ten weekend.
“We’re doing everything we can stay positive,” said sophomore Michael Dube. “It’s all you can do really. We can’t let ourselves get down or else everything could start to go downhill.”
The Spartans will look to get back on the right track with Big Ten play every weekend between now and the end of April. From a results perspective, Michigan State will have better opportunities as the schedule only features one ranked opponent before the Big Ten Championships at the end of the month.
Another thing Big Ten play brings is a renewed sense of energy as it brings a chance to take on the teams and rivals that the Spartans see the most.
“There’s definitely more excitement when playing in your conference,” said sophomore Jasper Koenen. “It means you’re facing the people you’re competing with to try and win a Big Ten Championship so it definitely gets more intense, practices included, and everyone’s a little more fired up.”
When asked about what his message to the team is to keep them on the right path over the next month, Orlando said it involved just a couple simple words.
“The biggest thing for them is the process, staying connected, staying the course, and staying focused.”