Coach challenges men’s tennis to become great

Coach Scott Linn believes reigning LSC champions can step up another level

Nolan McCaig, criminal justice sophomore, lines up volley in pre-season training session, Jan 28. Photo by Sharome Burton.

The reigning Lone Star Conference Champions in men’s tennis have been challenged to take the game a step further this season which gets underway this weekend.

The call to arms came from head tennis coach Scott Linn who said he expects even greater showings from his roster in the coming weeks, after a strong 22-6 campaign during the fall season.

“We’ve been good for a while but in my opinion we haven’t been great yet,” Linn said. “We’ve had some great individual performances and some doubles performances at times, but we’ve not had a team that’s consistently great and that takes a lot of maturity, a lot of ownership, determination and recognition.”

The men enter the season as No.14 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings – their sixth top-25 ranking spot in as many years. Linn said it could take some time before the team realizes its full potential this season.

“Hopefully you figure it out early so you can build momentum as you go through the season. Sometimes you have to figure it out late, where you don’t get to build as much momentum as you would like to,” Linn said. “Every year is a different team even when you bring a whole bunch of returners in. You don’t know what the expectations are.”

A pair of names that epitomizes the recent success of men’s tennis is the doubles team of Alberto Diaz, business sophomore, and Ben Westwick, mechanical engineering freshman. The duo dominated the South Central region last fall and earned the number eight national doubles ranking after advancing to the ITA Cup.

Westwick said he was happy to have built momentum heading into the spring season.

“It gave me a lot [of confidence], and Alberto too. As a freshman, I wasn’t really sure what was happening with college tennis so I was kind of nervous about competing. But once I put that behind me, I was able to play the way I liked to play tennis, and I’m looking forward to continuing that success,” Westwick said.

Diaz echoed the sentiments of his partner Westwick, adding that the entire team is ready to impress.

“It confirmed to us that we had what it takes to be one of the best at that level and it gives us confidence, but most of our teammates are also really good and it’s going to be a good season,” Diaz said.

Linn said while Diaz and Westwick stood out last fall, there is depth in quality in the entire 10-man roster.

“Now they may have individual expectations but I don’t think my expectations for them are different than for any doubles players that returned,” Linn said.

“Two of them [Angel Palacios, business management junior and Alex Martinez-Roca, mechanical engineering sophomore] had 20-win seasons in the spring, which doesn’t happen very often, and then [business junior] Denney Norrie had a really good season at number two doubles. At number one doubles, [criminal justice sophomore] Nolan McCaig and [biology senior] Dillon Pineda were ranked number 11 and 12 in the nation. We’ve returned those five guys plus [Diaz and Westwick],” Linn said.

He credited the team for their hard work in preparation during the off-season.

“We have several guys who are very talented, but it takes time. The guys put a lot of work in. You could see that over the holiday break and on their own at the end of the fall,” Linn said.

Westwick described the off-season training routine.

“In the off-season we were lifting three times a week at 6 a.m., then often times a lot of the guys would organize an unofficial hitting session in the afternoon to keep our games intact and be able to keep striking the ball well,” Westwick said.

Diaz said physical fitness is a major factor in tennis and believed that would make a difference for the team.

“To be really fit is the most important thing in tennis because you can be the most talented person in the world but, without the hard work it is impossible to play at a high level,” Diaz said. “We are quite fit and ready to fight.”

Men’s tennis will serve-off its season Feb. 2 against Collin College in Plano, Texas at 2 p.m. The first home matches are set for Feb. 16 against Southeastern Oklahoma State.