The future is now for Utah State tennis
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 00:01
When Sean McInerney and Clancy Shields were hired as the women’s and men’s tennis head coaches in May, nobody could tell them who was the all-time wins leader in USU tennis history. In fact, all of the program’s history was shrouded in mediocrity.
“When Clancy and I got here, there was just no history whatsoever,” McInerney said. “So we scraped together every year that was ever played here to start recognizing everybody that has ever played. We wanted to connect the past with the future.”
The coaches’ goal is to change the culture of USU tennis and turn it into a winning program, though they do acknowledge it will take some time to turn a men’s team that finished fifth in the WAC last year and a women’s team that finished ninth into contenders in a much better conference.
“I want to be a tough out,” McInerney said. “I want to be that team that every time someone plays you this year they think, ‘Holy cow, this is going to be a dogfight.’”
McInerney and Shields do expect wins this year, and they also expect that championships will come, even though the women’s team has yet to win a team match against a Mountain West team in its history.
“Quite honestly, I’d be very disappointed if we are not above .500,” McInerney said. “I think we will surprise a lot of people because I think that we have the pieces in place.”
The biggest thing both McInerney and Shields are trying to do is to change the mentality with USU’s tennis program. They are trying to make their players believe they can win.
“I was an assistant at Boise State, where we won the last two Mountain West Conference championships,” Shields said. “I know the level that we need to be at to be successful. Are we that far off? No. Are we that far off in the head? Yes.”
“The general idea is completely heightened expectations based on work ethic,” McInerney said. “I really believe that our players can look across the net and know that that team does not work as hard as them.”
Both coaches use a quote from Gandhi to stress how important work ethic is: “If you focus on results, there will be no change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”
The men’s tennis team started their season with a narrow loss on Saturday to No. 45 BYU in Provo. They will face Idaho State on Monday for their first home match of the season at the sports academy. The women’s team doesn’t kick off their season until Jan. 31 in Chicago.
Both coaches stressed the importance of fan presence at tennis matches.
“Recruiting-wise, if we had a good fan base at every match, that would be great,” Shields said. “If you bring out 20 of the Hurd, I guarantee you it’s going to make a world of difference. If we get a rowdy fan base, I could get any recruit in the country.”
Junior McKenzie Davis and sophomore Kallie Sperry lead the women’s team. Davis already has 43 career singles wins. The men’s side is led by freshman Dennis Baumgarther, junior Marcus Fritz and senior Frederik Peterson.
The tennis teams at USU appear to be making strides toward success, and the hope of the new coaches is that people across Logan will get on the bandwagon.
“These guys want to play for a program that other people care about,” Shields said.
“I really believe in this group of people,” McInerney said. “They made me believe.”