Last year you guys failed to make the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship for tennis. But fast forward to this year and you’re back in it. What can you say about this year’s turnaround and the success you guys have had on the court?
JB: It really started with just the leadership we have with the upperclassmen, they’ve done a really good job of bringing the freshmen in and embracing them and teaching them the right ways. The freshmen have really stepped up big for us in the lineup and just the whole team as a whole just really came together and you know, it’s been great.
Talk to me about the performances throughout the season from both Brad Orban and Sarah Stulhmann and what they provide for your team.
JB: You’ve got to have a good one player and both of them lead through example on the court. Brad’s had a really good year, had a really strong, I’d say, middle of the spring season where he was really dominant. Kind of had a bit of a little let down just in the beginning of March, but again, you’re playing one so you’re playing somebody that’s really good everyday and that’s a bit of a grind, and that’s why it takes a special person both Brad and Sarah. Sarah started playing well pretty much at the same time Brad did. Day in and day out, you’re going against someone’s best, there’s just no days off. To have someone like that, that you can rely on is huge and that’s part of the reason we’re doing well on both sides.
Both men’s and women’s teams got off to a fast start in conference play, how have you seen these teams progress as the season went on?
JB: Just confidence wise, you know when you can start to grab a couple of wins in conference it starts to build and everybody starts to feel better about themselves and what they can do on the court. I play a really tough non-conference schedule for both teams to get us ready for the MAAC’s and just so that they kind of understand that there’s always another level that we need to reach but I also do that so when we get into MAAC’s we’re sort of battle tested. We probably have a few more losses than we like out of conference but again they’re both young teams so that’s kind of by design. But once we got into MAAC’s and we started winning, then they start to believe in themselves and believe they can do it and that’s half the battle.
With MAAC Championship this weekend, how has the team been preparing for its first matchup against Quinnipiac?
JB: They’re loose, we’re the underdogs and that’s OK. The way I say is ‘that’s kind of a veteran team’ I think there’s three starters in their top six and then a fourth one playing doubles for Quinnipiac and we’ve got four freshmen, so we’ve got nothing to lose and they’re playing like it. Obviously our first goal was to get to the MAAC Tournament which we have achieved and the next one was to beat Quinnipiac. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best, so I’m perfectly fine with playing Quinnipiac first and I’m looking forward to the challenge and they’ve stepped up. It’s been nice for about 10 days to know who we are playing, so we’ve been working on individual gameplans. It’s been great and they’ve embraced it.
What must your team do to have a successful run in the MAAC Championship?
JB: They just need to execute, we’re good enough on both the men and the women, we’re good enough to win the tournament. Doesn’t mean we will but we need to go out and execute and trust our games, trust how we play and just be fearless. Be brave is really what we’ve been saying a lot, just don’t worry about losing if you go out and play with a ton of heart and a ton of aggressiveness then everything is going to work out. If we don’t win, at least when we go up and shake hands, we’ll know that we left everything out there and on that day the better team won. Both teams are in the right mindset, they’re ready to go.
What are your team’s expectations for this weekend?
JB: To win. That’s the ultimate goal, that’s why we do it you know. Tennis is tough. We start early September. I mean it’s a grind to get all the way to here. We want to win, you know what I mean, that’s the ultimate goal. We want to play well, we want to represent the school at the highest level, and I think if we do that we’re winners no matter what.