Tide prepares for challenging weekend

Britton Lynn

The No. 50 Alabama women’s tennis team began Southeastern Conference play this weekend with a 4-3 loss at No. 17 Georgia Friday before dropping a 5-2 matchup at No. 11 Tennessee Sunday. The Crimson Tide is now 6-5 overall and 0-2 in SEC play.

“We were excited to begin our SEC campaign,” said head coach Jenny Mainz. “It’s almost as if the SEC is a new season. Anything prior to the SEC kicking off is preparation to prepare for your league play.”

During the Tennessee match, Alabama won just one of three doubles matches and two of its singles matches to give the Vols the 5-2 victory.

“It’s really good for us to play some top teams like this and see where we stand and how close we are to being as good of a team as them,” freshman Alexa Guarachi said. “The tennis is there we just need to believe it. We’re close. It was a good experience.”

After Alabama’s slow start to conference play, the Tide believes the only way to change its playing is by changing its attitude.

“We have to be at our best every week,” Mainz said. “We’ve got to be sharp. We’ve got to be ready. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be excited about competing. We’ve got to get into the matches early. You have to be in the match to have a chance at [winning] the match. We have to establish that we are there to play.”

Even though Alabama lost to both Georgia on Friday and Tennessee on Sunday in the first weekend of SEC play, the Tide now has four straight games at home, three of them against SEC opponents, to try to build up its conference record.

“What’s great about playing in the SEC is that all the teams are great,” said junior Meritt Emery. “Last year, 10 out of all the SEC schools went to the NCAA tournament. Every weekend we have an opportunity to win. If you beat anybody in the SEC, it’s a big win and you’re going to go up in the SEC rankings.”

Alabama’s opponents this weekend include South Carolina on Friday at 3 p.m. and Florida on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gators are coming off head coach Roland Thornqvist’s 200th victory at Florida and a four-game winning streak. The Gamecocks are also coming off a four-game winning streak.

“We’ve got another big weekend for us playing South Carolina, then Florida,” Mainz said. “Florida is ranked No. 6 in the country, South Carolina is an underestimated team. They are very good. We have to be at our best every week. That’s where we are now. We are to a point where our best will be needed.”

Alabama hopes to gain solid victories against both teams at home to prove its worth as a major contender in the SEC.

“It’s going to be really big for us to win the matches,” Guarachi said. “We can definitely win both of these matches. We’ve just got to believe it. We can’t come in there thinking we are going to lose. We’ve just got to fight.”