The GC women’s tennis team’s upcoming matches are crucial and will affect their eligibility of making it to postseason, like the Peach Belt Conference, which is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II affiliated tournament. Their overall record is 12-7, and they are 5-4 for conference matches.
The Bobcats had a winning streak for the past few weeks, beating non-conference team Clark Atlanta (7-0) and conference team Georgia Southwestern (7-0), but last weekend, the team lost to conference teams USC Aiken (3-4) and Flagler College (1-6).
The team is currently fifth of the 12 Peach Belt membership schools. If they qualify, the Bobcats will head to conference in three weeks.
“If we play well in these matches coming up, we’ll be in,” said head coach Steve Barsby. “You gotta be in the Top 8 teams in the region. Right now I think we’d be in there, but these next couple weeks could move us a little higher or move us out.”
Despite recent losses, the team is remaining positive and is trying their best to stay motivated.
“I think we could do it [make it to postseason] if we find motivation,” said Valeria Lopez, an economics and marketing major from Galicia, Spain.
“We’re motivated, but we’re tired and losing a couple matches that we shouldn’t.”
Due to February rain, many matches were rescheduled. The team has been making up these matches in the past few weeks.
“We got so many re-schedules because of the rain,” Lopez said. “In February, it rained almost every match. Right now, we have everything scheduled regionally. In the past two weeks, we had seven matches, and they were all away.”
When matches are packed back-to-back, players are more likely to get tired. Paula Garriga, a senior management major from Centelles, Spain, said she was exhausted in the Aiken match.
“With Aiken I think we should have won, but I felt so tired,” Garriga said. “I went to a third set, and I couldn’t play anymore because of how tired I was.”
Garriga and Lopez both said they like to encourage and spend time with their younger teammates. Lopez and Garriga are the only upperclassmen on the team.
“For example, right now we’re down mood-wise because we lost a game [last] Thursday [that] we shouldn’t have and that hasn’t happened in a long time,” Garriga said. “We’re trying to get everyone together and talk about feelings and where we stand. We try to put everyone together when we feel like we need to talk.”
Barsby said he believes that the team can qualify for the PBC as long as they continue to stay focused.
“I tell the girls all the time, I’m not worried about the result,” Barsby said. “I’m worried about how we compete. If we compete really hard, the chances of a good result increase.”
During practice, Barsby helps his players improve by identifying a specific area that they want to improve. With a diverse team, these areas can vary vastly from practice to practice.
“We’re very different,” Garriga said. “We’re seven players, but each of us has a completely different game. Some of us are better in doubles, some are better in singles. There are people that serve better than others. We try to work everything so everyone can feel comfortable and give 100% with whatever they have.”
What stays consistent from match to match is each player’s focus and mental strength.
“In every single match, you have to be mentally tough,” Lopez said. “Some matches are tougher than others.”
Some of this season’s challenging matches were against West Florida and Queens University of Charlotte. Both of these teams are outside of the PBC. Barsby said he uses non-conferences matches to challenge his team and assess its skills.
“We have our normal conference matches, and we try to play some good teams who are not in our conference,” Barsby said. “I want to challenge our girls and see how good they actually are.”
Lopez and Garriga said they always cheer on their teammates, especially when the Bobcats are playing a challenging team.
“Whenever we play a really good team, we try to cheer the others more,” Garriga said. “If you lose yours, it doesn’t matter. As soon as you’re done, go cheer your teammate and make sure everyone is giving 100%.”
Photo courtesy Madison Miles | Contributing Photographer