Fitness, motivation usher Women's Tennis into dual match play
Jan. 21, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
This time of year seems to always bring a few surprises for Texas Women's Tennis coach Patty Fendick-McCain. NCAA rules mandate that coaches can't be on the court with student-athletes from early December to early January.
"You never really know how they're going to turn up for dual match play," said McCain, who is in her sixth season as Texas head coach. "You spend all the time in the fall honing their skills and introducing new things. It's very difficult for them after that period of coaching to carry through independently over the holidays."
However, when the Longhorns took to the courts at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic last week in Palm Springs, McCain liked what she saw. She saw fitness.
New for the 2010-11 season, the Longhorns are working with Lee McCormick as their strength and conditioning coach. McCormick is famous on the Forty Acres for his energetic style and demanding workouts.
"He asks a lot of them, and he really encourages them to demand a lot of themselves," McCain said. "He really whipped them into great shape. In Palm Springs, we were by far the fittest team."
UT opens dual match play on Saturday, Jan. 22 when the Longhorns host Rice. UT ranks 17th in the preseason college tennis poll released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). The Longhorns return four of six singles starters from the 2010 squad that totaled a 19-6 record and reached the NCAA round of 16 for the second time in the last three seasons.
Sophomore Aeriel Ellis leads the way. She was last year's Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and ranks a career-best No. 8 in the ITA preseason singles rankings. Ellis has qualified for all five national championship events contested in her one-plus seasons of college tennis.
The opportunity to play in Palm Springs allowed the Longhorns to get a lot of tennis under their belts early -- everyone played at least four singles matches and in some cases two, three or four doubles matches. It provided a good learning environment, after the month-long coaching hiatus, for the Longhorns to engage in a competitive setting and receive immediate feedback.
"It's impossible for them to remember and reinforce everything they've done when they're on their own," McCain said. "A skill sport like tennis really demands the hands-on teaching."