Tennis : Jensen emphasizes importance of team play to young Orange squad

Tennis : Jensen emphasizes importance of team play to young Orange squad

first_img Comments The goal is simple for Syracuse this season: to win a national championship.Syracuse head coach Luke Jensen said he considers this SU team to be one of his best ever.‘We have everything it takes to be No. 1 at the end of the season,’ Jensen said.But to win, Jensen expects Syracuse (0-1) to prepare and play as a team. To meet his goal, Jensen must teach his players to override the ‘me-first’ tennis culture that some of his junior stars developed in singles play. Both on and off the court, Jensen is working to hammer home his message and build a team-focused atmosphere.‘If the team wins, everybody wins,’ he said. ‘If the team loses, everybody loses.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe majority of Syracuse’s players have already seen individual success. Six of the team’s eight scholarship players boast a professional Women’s Tennis Association ranking, and two have won matches on tour. All nine players hope to go pro.The team members who played tennis or another team sport for their high schools generally understand the team concept, Jensen said. Other players, such as those who played exclusively junior tennis — which is not a team sport — have a harder time adapting.‘The players who adapt right away were the kids that played high school tennis, the kids who played other sports growing up,’ Jensen said. ‘(They) get the team concept.’Emily Harman, a senior and the team’s captain, has experience in both. Tennis is an individualized sport, especially in a junior setting, she said. But her experience playing other high school sports helped reinforce the benefits of a team.Harman said playing so many team sports gave her a team feeling that she has carried to SU.Unlike Harman, three of the seven players who played in last Saturday’s 5-2 loss to South Florida did not play tennis for their high school team.‘If you’re very, very individual growing up and you’re into tennis from the very beginning, then it’s a little bit of a different story,’ Harman said.To combat the potential pitfalls of a team full of aspiring professionals, Jensen works to establish individual roles within a larger team framework. The upperclassmen work to reinforce the team ethos to the freshmen, Harman said.For Harman, helping her younger teammates makes the biggest difference on and off the court. Everything from the on-court performance to off-court activities, such as attending class, studying and keeping a good diet, helps the team improve on a daily basis.‘Everything has to be as close to perfect as we can make it,’ she said. ‘And this team is shooting for a goal that is extremely high, and we don’t have time to waste on the little things and little mistakes that can be prevented.’Jensen stresses to the players that everybody has a role in making the team successful.Jensen does still provide his players with individual opportunities. Last week, his players played in a pair of pro tournaments in Innisbrook, Fla., before the USF match. They played another in Plantation, Fla., after losing to the Bulls.But although they were playing individually, Harman said there was still a level of team support.Said Harman: ‘For us to go as a team and show the Syracuse colors in that arena, it’s awesome.’[email protected] Published on January 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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