MTEN vs South Carolina

LSU men’s tennis freshman Joao Graca and LSU men’s tennis redshirt junior Joey Thomas high five after scoring a point Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 during LSU’s 1-4 loss against South Carolina in the LSU Tennis Complex on Gourrier Avenue in Baton Rouge.

LSU men’s tennis (10-8) started the season 8-1 before losing seven of its last nine matches to get to the record it is at today. However, in that time frame, every loss has come against a team in the top-30, and four of those teams are ranked between No. 2 and No. 11 in the latest ITA rankings.

The SEC has been one of the best conferences in college tennis over the past few decades. However, LSU hasn’t quite been a part of that success, with the exception of women’s tennis in recent years.

But that doesn’t mean the men’s tennis program isn’t moving in the right direction or making progress. The Tigers sport one of the youngest rosters in the conference, likely one of the youngest in the country, and facing off against some of the best teams in the country is normally a difficult task for a group full of juniors and seniors.

Coach Chris Brandi mentioned this in regard to the recent struggles, stating that its freshmen starters were expected to be inconsistent this season.

“When you start four freshmen like we have been for most of the year, they’re going to be up and down,” Brandi said.

To put into perspective how difficult this stretch has been for the Tigers, the average ranking of their last nine opponents is 21 — 17 if you don’t include Vanderbilt — which falls just outside of the top-50. Brandi has attributed the Tigers’ skid to their strength of schedule and stated some of those matches almost went LSU’s way.

“Really all that’s happened is the competition level has gone up,” Brandi said. “We’ve run up against good teams, and we’ve had chances, but we just haven’t gotten it done.”

And the team has in fact had chances to take down some great teams, such as No. 10 South Carolina, No. 11 Mississippi State and No. 20 Kentucky.

Kentucky is a bit of a stretch from the outside looking in, but the doubles point was close. Ronald Hohmann had a lead on Court One, and Courts Five and Six didn’t get a chance to play. The other two aren’t stretches at all.

Had the Tigers taken the doubles point against South Carolina, they would have been down 3-2 with two courts leading instead of the Gamecocks’ clinching the match at 4-1. The match against Mississippi State was neck-and-neck, as LSU lost 4-3.

If the Tigers had won two out of those three at least, they’d have a more respectable 12-6 record. Brandi cited the matches against South Carolina and Mississippi State as proof the team can hang with some strong teams, stating it just needed a few more bounces to go it way.

“We can win one of these matches,” Brandi said. “We’ve had chances against Mississippi State, we’ve had chances against South Carolina. South Carolina had match points against North Carolina [a few] days ago, which is No. 1 in the nation.

“We’re right there with some teams, but sometimes you need things to go your way.”

With the way the Tigers have matched up against some of these ranked teams, they’re bound to take down one of the top dogs sooner or later. They already have two ranked wins over No. 22 Texas Tech and No. 31 Arkansas.

On Sunday, the team defeated No. 47 Auburn. Benjamin Ambrosio closed out a tight match, and No. 61 Ronald Hohmann. upset No. 42 Tyler Stiee to seal a win for the Tigers.

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