MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Coming off of the program’s third straight Conference USA title and a national seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Middle Tennessee men’s tennis faces a loaded spring schedule to help prepare them to defend their crown when the calendar flips over to 2023.
With a guaranteed 12 match ups against 2022 NCAA Tournament teams, and a plethora of RPI Top 75 opponents, head coach Jimmy Borendame said the goal for this season was for his team to be ready to play early and have the chance to make the run at the Top 10 if they play to their potential.
“The way the rankings work, it’s all about opportunities,” Borendame said. “Ranked wins, high-ranked wins get you up there. I’ve never really worried about my win-loss record ever. We wanted the expectation that everyone needed to come back in shape and ready to play. It’s not going to be like in the past where we work our way into it.”
MTSU starts the spring schedule on Friday, January 13, welcoming Michigan State to the Adams Tennis Complex, the first of seven Friday night tilts at the ATC. The Blue Raiders will then welcome Indiana the following Friday, followed by a quick trip down to Starkville, Miss. to play Mississippi State on Sunday ahead of ITA Kickoff weekend in Durham, N.C. on January 27 to end the first month of the year.
The calendar then turns to February, with home matches against 2022 NCAA Tournament teams USF and Princeton along with visits from Alabama A&M and Rice, the only C-USA team on the spring schedule ahead of the C-USA Championships. A trip out to Virginia Tech on February 12 then gives way to home matches against Oklahoma State, SMU and Austin Peay, before MTSU looks to defend its title at the Blue Gray Championships Montgomery, Ala.
The Blue Gray field is once again stacked, with five teams (MTSU, Auburn, Texas Tech, Arizona and Oklahoma) in last year’s 64-team NCAA Tournament draw. It also features two opponents MTSU will visit on the road in March in Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
Trips over spring break to Tulane and Northwestern will start March on the right foot, with a St. Patrick’s Day doubleheader with Dartmouth and North Alabama giving the Blue Raiders a chance to enjoy the raucous ATC home crowds ahead of a challenging road trip out west.
“I’ve really enjoyed bringing someone in on Friday night and making it a really cool atmosphere,” Borendame said. “We sell beer now, we do promotions. There’s usually a second match where we can play somebody local, get some other guys some matches and continue to develop other players.”
The Blue Raiders will close out March on the road, playing three straight NCAA Tournament teams in Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Memphis, before returning home to the ATC for a fourth straight NCAA Tournament foe in VCU. A final Friday doubleheader on April 14 against Tennessee Tech and UT Southern rounds out the home slate, with the Blue Raiders getting one final road tuneup at Louisville that weekend ahead of the C-USA Championships in Houston starting on April 21.
“With the bulk of the team coming back from last year, and those three core guys, Stijn Slump, Francisco Rocha and Pavel Motl coming back, along with the success from the past few years we’ve been able to build great relationships with other teams,” Borendame said. “We wanted to put it on the line and give our team lots of opportunities to be in the Top 10.”