Mesa Community College tennis looks towards regional and national success
The Mesa Community College tennis program’s 2022-23 campaign is coming to a close, as both the men’s and women’s teams are looking ahead to the regional and national tournaments.
The men’s team is no stranger to success or dominating the ACCAC, as they have won the last eight conference titles with unbeaten records.
It appears as though this year may be no different, as they currently hold a 6-5 overall record and a perfect 6-0 conference mark with just one more contest in their way.
One of the key strengths of the team has been their experience, according to head coach Feroz Rast, as all of their top players are returners from last year’s team.
“Our top seven players are all returners so experience has been what has carried us this year with some very tough conference matches, and that’s just a testament to our overall comradery as a team and how well we know each other. We can really trust each other because we’ve been there before,” said Rast.
The experience of the team also keeps Rast’s mind a little more at ease as they go into regional and national play, knowing his team has been through this before improves the confidence Rast has in his team.
“As a coach, I’m always tense before a match, but it helps to know I can trust these guys. I know they can handle those pressure-filled moments,” said Rast.
Since the month of March, the team has been on a tear, as they’ve gone 5-2.
Three of their five losses came relatively close to the beginning of the season, as they played up in competition against multiple four year schools like Ottawa University, Western New Mexico University, and Northern Arizona University.
Playing these greater opponents serves two purposes for both the men’s and women’s teams.
Most importantly, it helps the team prepare themselves for the conference gauntlet by playing a team that plays at a higher level.
The tough competition also helps Rast with recruiting, as he can show that MCC will play anyone and everyone, regardless of their division. It also shows recruits that playing at MCC can help you as a player improve by playing better competition.
The regional championship will take place April 11-12 with the NJCAA national championship taking place May 6-10.
If the T-Birds want a chance to hold the regional title for the ninth consecutive time and achieve their goal of a top 10 national finish, they will have to stay composed when it comes to their doubles play.
“It goes back to doubles and how we handle that moment, if we can come out there and focus and capture those doubles points there’s no reason why we shouldn’t win the region title,” said Rast, “how we handle doubles will really carry over for our goal which is to finish top 10 in the country this year.”
When it comes to the women’s team, it has been almost a complete opposite in regards to experience on the team. The inexperience may be a key factor for their 4-7 overall and 2-3 conference mark.
“We had a lot of fresh faces and inexperience and they’ve come in and handled that well and they’ve gotten better as the year has gone on, I don’t think our record reflects our hard work,” said Rast.
The Lady T-Birds conference mark is a bit misleading when you understand the context of the ACCAC and the other teams.
MCC and Eastern Arizona College are the only schools to carry a full team, so the only real matches that have taken place between ACCAC opponents has been when the Lady Gila Monsters played the Lady T-Birds.
Both Paradise Valley and Glendale Community College did not carry full teams, so when GCC and MCC met, the Lady T-Birds won both contests.
MCC defeated GCC due to a forfeit, while PVCC has never matched up with MCC this season in anything more than a scrimmage
Through the thick and thin of the year for MCC, one bright spot on the team in terms of leadership is sophomore Kylie Williams, who has been a leader on and off the court for her team.
“Kylie is the glue of that team, she’s always there talking positive to her teammates, she’s battled through some injuries and she’s always a warrior on the court,” said Rast, “she’s our motivator and our energy.”
Going forward to the regional championship and nationals, the most important aspect for the teams’ success will be getting their team healthy as they have battled through a number of injuries this season.
“For the girls the biggest key will be health, the best ability is availability. If we can get everyone healthy and ready to play, I think we’ll be fine and will be able to battle with EAC,” said Rast.