HUNTINGTON -- The second seeded West Virginia Wesleyan men's tennis team heads to Huntington today with as many questions as they have answers for their MEC title run.
Will they be able to put together two complete efforts in singles and doubles for the first time all year?
Will the veterans in the lineup step up and show that experience in key situations?
Will the event be played indoors or outdoors?
Will a new look doubles lineup come together in time to give them a shot going into the singles portion of their matches?
In past years, the Bobcats have fared well in the MEC tournament, being competitive and pushing their opponents to the brink even in defeat. But this season, gaining momentum and continuity has been a challenge. That may sound surprising for a team that has won nine straight matches, but head coach Marc Walters sees a team that has yet to completely gel.
"Our results this year have been hard to read," said head coach Marc Walters. "Our lack of momentum and a few tough losses are a symptom of the weather and schedule, and momentum is key going into a tournament like this."
One thing the 'Cats have going for them is a lineup featuring seven current or former All-MEC selections, including repeat first teamers Nathan Sabate and Ramon Rodriguez. Lukas Laipold (this season) and Jacobo Rendon (2016,2015) are also first team all-MEC while Alexander Lyudinovskiy, Ferran Berga, and Tim Stephens have made the second team in their career.
"Our experience and depth is a key for us," said Walters. "However, illness and injuries, weather and scheduling all came together this year to make it hard for us to put everyone on the court at 100% at one time. We finally have the team running on all cylinders."
The 'Cats, seeded-second, expect to see third-seeded Fairmont State in the semi-finals Saturday in Huntington.
FSU has had a breakthrough season and capped it with wins over Edinboro (ranked #47 nationally at the time) and these same Bobcats during the MEC season. The two team shared the title by virtue of a three way tie with West Liberty with identical 6-1 league marks.
Wesleyan's best results in the regular season include a 6-3 win over nationally ranked Chowan and a tough 5-4 win defending MEC champion West Liberty.
"FSU is a nice team with good depth and great chemistry," said Walters
"They just played very tough tennis in key positions against us in the first match, and frankly, they looked like the veteran team at the end of the doubles and the singles matches," explained Walters. We are a very even match-up, top to bottom, and I expect another nail-biter result Saturday."
Both Lyudinovskiy and Berga were coming off illnesses in that first match, which limited their effectiveness and the Falcons capitalized. The Bobcats also failed to close out two key doubles matches, which fueled the momentum that FSU ultimately rode to the win.
Match time for Saturday is 2 p.m. following the first semi-final between top seed West Liberty and fourth seeded Charleston.
The finals will be at 1 p.m. Sunday.