Lack of focus keeps tennis team winless versus Rams

 

The Emerson men’s tennis team usually plays its home matches at either Pine Manor College  or the Winchester Club, each about a 20-minute drive from campus. Senior Garret Mercer said he uses that ride to focus on his gameplan.

As the team’s van cuts through Boston traffic, Mercer  runs through match scenarios in his head.

“When we get into the van, you’re supposed to forget everything that you’ve been doing that day and you only focus about the match ahead,” Mercer  said. “You’re supposed to have the mindset of ‘I’m staying for a dogfight. I don’t care how long the match goes, I’m going to freaking win.’”

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But on Saturday vs. Suffolk University, Mercer said that mentality was missing.

It wasn’t there in the team’s previous practice, wasn’t in the van, and most of all, he said, wasn’t there on the court at Winchester as the Lions fell to the Rams, 8-1, in a rematch of last year’s Great Northeast Athletic Conference finals.

Emerson’s record dropped to 0-6 on the year, 0-1 in the GNAC.

The elusive concentration Emerson couldn’t seem to capture, Mercer said, belonged to the Rams, who took all three doubles matches to begin the evening.

“Focus was a big thing,” the visual and media arts major said. “They came out really focused and ready to go and they jumped on us. When you lose all three doubles matches, that’s a really big blow because you know you have to win five out of the six singles to win the match.”

It was Mercer’s first full match of the season after breaking his hand while playing for the men’s volleyball team.

Because of his injury, Mercer said, focus was hard enough to obtain. But with two of the team’s top players out — Ken Nikravesh returned home to Switzerland to become an official citizen and Dan Lapidus has a broken hand — the ability to hone in on the task at hand became harder for the Lions.

Will Abeles, a senior television production major and a co-captain with Mercer, also tried to pinpoint what went wrong.

“Once we get on the court, I want our players to fully commit to our match,” Abeles said. “In general, our team does a good job of committing to their game, but that didn’t happen on Saturday. Because of various reasons, people just lost their focus.”

After Abeles and Nate Fuller lost the third doubles match, the Lions were in an early 0-3 hole.

Suffolk then took the first three singles matches with relative ease. Mitch Lance fell by the scores of 6-0, 6-2, while Mercer and James Landino each went down without recording a game, 6-0, 6-0.

“They out-grinded us in the singles,” Mercer said. “They wore us down, and I think if we’re going to get into the playoffs, we need to do a lot better job of not letting teams do that.”

Head coach Mason Astley said some credit for the win should be given to the Rams.

“I’m not willing to say that the only reason we lost was concentration and preparation,” Astley said in an email to the Beacon. “Suffolk is also good and well-coached. Steve Counihan does a good job getting his team ready.”

However, Astley said, getting off to a slow start was one of the main culprits in the loss.

“We did scramble a little to get our doubles teams accustomed to each other, and I think that left us a bit sluggish to begin doubles,” he said. “We talked about this after the match: the best teams we play are locked in from the first ball they hit in warm-ups. As a team, we have to start quicker than we’ve been doing.”

While it was the Lions’ sixth loss of the season, it was just their first conference game, meaning they still have a shot at finishing second in the GNAC. To do that, Mercer said, the team will have to improve its mental game.

“Honestly, I would say that in tennis, the reason why people win is 80 percent mental,” Mercer said.

“We all know how to hit a forehand and a backhand, and we’ve worked hard in the offseason, getting ready. But it comes down to coming out and being confident and focused that you’re going to win.”