Winning tennis matches in the Pac-12 is hard. Winning when your team was recently reduced to six players is harder.
The Oregon women’s tennis team dismissed three players due to a violation of team rules. The team is now playing with the minimum amount needed for the rest of the season.
Dramatic late-season personnel shifts rarely breed success, especially in doubles.
“Chemistry is huge for doubles pairings,” head coach Alison Silverio said. Two of the three dismissed players, Kennan Johnson and Christi Woodson, were crucial pieces to the Ducks’ doubles squads.
With five players generally available, Oregon has featured seven different doubles pairings in its last four matches.
After months spent learning and adapting to a partner’s playing style, abandoning it for a new partner on short notice can be mentally draining. Hitting the reset button is not ideal for a team that needs to create momentum.
The season hinges on how the team reacts and adapts. Despite the setback, Silverio has confidence in Oregon’s ability to bounce back.
“The girls know each other and each other’s games well, so I think [chemistry] happens naturally,” she said.
The Ducks’ doubles record since the dismissal is 0-4. Due to injuries, however, Oregon has forfeited the No. 3 court in three of four matches, putting the pressure on courts No. 1 and 2 for the Ducks to take the doubles point.
“I think they have been handling [the pressure] phenomenally,” said Silverio. “For us, it’s just all about competing, fighting and battling … I’m very proud of how they have been handling the adversity.”
For the Oregon coaches and players, the focus is not on events of the past, but on the future. With the Pac-12 championships beginning on April 20, building confidence is key.
Silverio was pleased with the team’s doubles performance in a close loss to Utah,
“I can see us keeping [the pairings]… to see if we can get it going,” Silverio said.
Oregon has no seniors on the team. Leadership is pivotal in scenarios like this, but the team hopes the pressure now will lead to stronger players in the future. The trials and tribulations of today will lead to valuable experience tomorrow, especially for a growing program looking to compete for Pac-12 titles.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917