STARKVILLE — MississippiState men”s tennis coach Per Nilsson thinks his team might not have been fully tuned-in during a 3-3 start to the season.
Today”s home opener against UAB at 2 p.m. starts a three-match homestand after MSU suffered a 4-2 loss to Brigham Young and 5-2 setback to No. 24 Washington.
Mississippi State rebounded from the Washington loss with a 5-2 win against East Tennessee State, but Nilsson believes the team could very easily be 5-1 heading into today”s matches. The Bulldogs opened the season with a 4-3 loss to Ole Miss at the River Hills Cup in Jackson.
“We just haven”t had all six guys click,” Nillson said. “We had a few guys play well, and sometimes that happens over the break. Everybody had a good fall and I think maybe they didn”t realize that once the regular season started, they have to continue to work.
“They”ve kind of turned it on here and we”ve gotten back on track.”
Buoyed by sophomore Louis Cant”s 7-1 start to the season, Nillson said the Bulldogs are able to move players around to better suit matchups, a luxury they didn”t have last season.
“We also have guys pushing the five and six (positions) and can fill in holes, which is really big for our team,” Nilsson said. “Last year, we weren”t very deep and couldn”t afford any injuries. Our No. 2 then, Daniel Sanchez, got hurt (knee) and we were in a tough spot.”
Sanchez is currently the team”s No. 6-7 singles player as he works to get back to full fitness from knee surgery.
While the team is set with quality singles players, Nilsson admits his concern lies in doubles play, where the team has dropped six of their last nine matches.
“We”re not really doubles specialists, but we really try to focus on it every match,” Nilsson said. “We have to try to become a little bit smarter in doubles. We could be really good team if we get our doubles play to where it needs to be.
“If you”re going to be in the top 10 in the SEC and country, you”re going to have to do both.”
Following today”s matches against the Blazers, the Bulldogs will host Middle Tennessee at 1 p.m. Saturday.
MSU golfers looking for turnaround
After finishing 13th at last week”s Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., the Mississippi State men”s golf team is in a tough spot between playing with youth and tempering early expectations.
“Any time you go down and finish 13 out of 14 teams, you can”t be real happy about that,” MSU coach Clay Homan said. “We knew we had a young team going in and it showed.”
MSU had just one Top 25 finisher at the Gator Invite as true freshman Robi Calvesbert”s nine-over par finish was good for a 23rd-place tie.
Calvesbert, along with Brad Mason and John Darden, gave MSU three freshmen in the lineup at the Gator Invitational.
After Darden”s 30-over performance last weekend, Homan has opted to replace him freshman Mike Genovese ahead of this weekend”s Mobile Bay (Ala.) Intercollegiate at Robert Trent Jones Trail-Magnolia Grove.
Homan said he doesn”t expect as strong of a field as his team competed against last week, but believes the Bulldogs will face quality competition.
The Magnolia Grove course has been re-done and just re-opened last fall. Homan said the course will put a premium on fairway accuracy with sloping greens.
Homan bemoaned his team”s struggles on approach shots and chipping around the green last week, though he noted the corrections will come in time and more rounds.
“We”re going to have to minimize the three-puts on the greens,” Homan said of this weekend. “You have to be able to save shots no matter what level you”re playing at. When you”re missing greens, you can”t make a bogey every time if you expect to be competitive.”
The MBI will tee off Sunday and conclude with the last shot Tuesday.