CORPUS CHRIST – Two weeks ago, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros men’s tennis team dropped a tight home match 3-4 against the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) Islanders.
The Vaqueros (1-5) haven’t played since that match, and they’re eager to return the favor and defeat the Islanders (8-3) on their home court in the South Texas Showdown presented by Navy Army Community Credit Union. The match is scheduled for 12 p.m. at the Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center.
“It’s kind of a unique opportunity because we had some time off, but we’re playing the exact same team we played last time,” UTRGV head coach Nathan Robinson said. “The guys reacted well to a tight match with Corpus. Excited to get back out there, see the growth that we’ve made and where we’ve made it. It’s going to be a good opportunity for our guys to get out there and maybe try to right a couple wrongs and see if we can come out with a W.”
Robinson felt the Vaqueros allowed the Islanders to dictate the game style at times in the first go ’round. UTRGV focused on conditioning and mentality in the past two weeks to counter that issue. Robinson wants his team to come out aggressive from the start, claim the doubles point like it did last time, and make the smart plays down the stretch.
“We got back to a little more basic stuff and the guys took on a conditioning block this week, getting themselves in a little better shape and a little better between the ears so they feel they can go out there and outwork the other guy,” Robinson said. “Coming out with great energy early on, really going after our game styles, mentally just being extremely strong and ready to compete, ready to fight, will be key.”
Junior Misha Kvantaliani and senior Carlo Izurieta picked up wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, in the first showdown. No. 3 junior George Hutchings and No. 4 freshman Sam Whitehead dropped competitive three-set matches. Robinson wants the two athletes leading the lineup to keep their foot on the pedal, and he expects Hutchings and Whitehead to be ready to “take that next step and shut the door” with strong outings at No. 3 and No. 4.
Kvantaliani is confident heading into the showdown, not only in how he is playing but in UTRGV’s chances to end an 18-match losing streak to TAMUCC.
“I expect this time for us to do better and to believe, first and foremost, that we can do it,” Kvantaliani said. “In my opinion, it’s very doable to win this match. I feel like our level is there with them, if not higher. I think we need to go out there from the first point and believe that we can do it and trust each other as partners, as teammates.”
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