Joe Dodson, Staff Writer
VCU men’s tennis is entering the final seven matches of the spring season at a season-high ranking of No. 32 in the country. The team is on an 11-1 record after beating Elon 4-1 on Saturday.
The Rams jumped from No. 39 in the ITA Oracle Collegiate Tennis Rankings.
Coach Anthony Rossi said that although the ranking is a great accomplishment, the team will need to keep up their intensity to remain ranked.
“I keep repeating that the number in front of our name doesn’t make us any better,” Rossi said. “It’s not going to give us free points or free wins.”
Rossi said the team has had to be flexible with rescheduling matches. The first month and a half of the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“For everybody it’s been a pretty unusual season,” Rossi said. “We just deal with it.”
Senior Inigo Torre Martin said that the team’s hard work in the offseason is what’s leading to success this season.
“The key to our success so far is all the hours of practice that we did during the fall,” Torre Martin said. “It’s now paying off. We were getting our minds and our bodies ready.”
Rossi said he credits the early season success to his team’s experience and maturity. Last season, VCU had four freshmen and just two upperclassmen on the roster.
“You can tell by the way they approach practice,” Rossi said. “We don’t have to repeat little stuff.”
Torre Martin won back-to-back A-10 Performer of the Week awards this season for the weeks of March 9 and March 16. Torre Martin and junior Rayane Stable are ranked No. 51 in the ITA doubles rankings after notching a 6-1 record.
Torre Martin said sophomore Lleyton Cronje and junior Charles Bertimon’s improvements from their first year on the team to this year have been vital to the team’s success. Cronje was named A-10 Performer of the Week on March 23, along with freshman Mario Duron, who was named A-10 Rookie of the Week after the duo went 2-0 in doubles play against Duquesne and Delaware.
The Rams added senior Quentin Coulaud, who brings experience from his four years playing in the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spot at Georgia State University. Coulaud won A-10 Performer of the Week on March 2 after going 4-0 in singles and doubles against Old Dominion and James Madison.
“He played one or two for a team that was top-50 at Georgia State,” Rossi said. “You can tell that he’s mature and that he’s bringing that experience, that intensity that we were missing.”
After starting the season 6-0, the Rams traveled to Tempe, Arizona, to take on No. 17 Arizona State University. It was a close battle that came down to a match-winning shot at the net by Torre Martin to clinch a 4-3 team victory.
“Since we had the victory at Arizona State, it kinda opens your eyes and you say ‘OK we actually are supposed to be here. We put in the work,’” Cronje said.
The team picked up the first loss of the season two days later when they were swept 4-0 by No. 16 Arizona. Cronje said the team used the loss as a learning experience.
“I feel like the boys were a little tired,” Cronje said. “We responded really well because we knew what we have to work on and what we have to improve on.”
Since the loss, VCU has won three straight matches. Torre Martin said that the goal for the team is simple — to get better everyday.
“Everyone’s on the same page,” Torre Martin said. “Everybody has the same goal in mind which is to get better, and we are just putting the work in every single day.”
Men’s tennis will travel to North Carolina on Friday to play UNC Wilmington.