It’s all about chemistry
If there is one thing that sums up the men’s tennis team in a nutshell, it is the way it welcomed a brand new transfer student. Freshman Aaron Clissold arrived in Oregon just about two weeks ago, and he already feels perfectly at ease.
“Everyone on the team is awesome,” Clissold said. “I feel really at home here, and I feel that we’re going to have a great season. They’re taking me in really well.”
Team chemistry is a focal point for the Ducks under head coach Nils Schyllander, who himself has been particularly impressed with the leadership of his seniors. Alexander Cornelissen, Ric Mortera, and Marcos Verdasco have made the most of their upperclassmen status, and the rest of the team has followed their example.
“I feel like our three seniors have really stepped up and tried to take a leadership role, which is something we’ve been lacking a little bit in the past,” Schyllander said. “That’s been a big, big improvement from this year’s team.”
For his part, Cornelissen has been impressed by the team’s overall work ethic.
“There’s usually one person who doesn’t really want to work,” Cornelissen said. “This year … everybody wants to work hard, run hard, play hard, and I think that’s really important.”
That attitude will be particularly important as the team opens doubles play today against Weber State in Boise, Idaho. A match with Boise State will immediately follow tomorrow, and the team is eager to get on the court. As Schyllander sees it, this week could mark the beginning of a very special season.
“Our ultimate goal is to be in the NCAA Tournament come April and May,” Schyllander said. “To do that, we need to play good tennis. There’s so many good programs in the country that we need to be ready from the get-go.”
Thus far, Schyllander has been impressed by what he has seen. Clearly, the team itself shares his belief that this could be a memorable year.
“The focus, especially from the seniors, has been very, very good,” Schyllander said. “I think they’ve got pretty high expectations, and they’ve been really focused for a week and a half of practice now.”
There are, of course, some kinks that need to be worked out. Based on what he saw in fall matches, Schyllander would like to see the team get off to faster starts.
“I felt like in a couple of matches we fell behind early,” Schyllander said. “We were a little bit tight, played a little bit nervous, and I hope we move past that now as a team.”
Given the somewhat individual nature of tennis, each player has different things to work on. Cornelissen, for one, is focusing on his serve.
“I’ve been working on (my serve),” Cornelissen said. “Because that has to be a weapon, especially in men’s tennis, and sometimes it’s hard to keep my serve.”
Cornelissen, among others on the team, has also struggled with injuries in the past. Nothing is more frustrating than a nagging physical ailment, and the team plans to avoid those as much as possible this year.
“We’ve been stretching a lot more, as a team and as individuals,” Cornelissen said. “We stretch twenty minutes after every practice, after every weight session.”
All told, the team is feeling highly optimistic about the prospects of this season.
“If we catch some breaks, I think we’re definitely talented enough (to go to the NCAA Tournament),” Schyllander said. “But talk is cheap; we’ve got to go out and do it and play tough.”
Cornelissen perhaps summed it up best.
“Out of the four years I’ve been here,” he said, “this is the most cohesive team we’ve had.”
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