Tomorrow will bring the unknown when Lafayette tennis squares off against Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, Md.
Both the men and the women lost to Army and then beat Holy Cross on Saturday, but Lafayette has competed against both opponents consistently for years. Loyola, on the other hand, just joined the Patriot League.
Familiar or not, wins for the Leopards tomorrow will be significant in acquiring favorable Patriot League Tournament seeding. The Lafayette men sit at fifth in league standings while the women are in fourth. Loyola is currently eighth in both standings.
If both the men and the women win just one more league match, neither has to compete in the play-in game for the tournament.
“Facing a team we have never played before, such as Loyola, is interesting because you don’t really know what to expect,” junior Amanda Kusnierz said. “In order to prepare for those matches against teams we do not know, it is really important to practice our overall skills in order to be solid and consistent for the start of the match.”
Consistent competition against other league foes has allowed Lafayette to learn the tendencies of their opponents’ student-athletes. But the only study that will take place against Loyola is in warm-ups, as players from both teams hit together before the match begins.
“I’ll do a few tricks to see if he likes his forehand or backhand better,” Junior Brandon Goldstein said. “I’ll hit a ball at him and see if he takes it with his forehand or backhand; that way I’ll know.”
The best preparation, according to Goldstein, is to focus on his own strengths and hone them in.
“We just played Holy Cross and Army; I played both of those guys the last two years,” the captain said. “Now we get a new team in the Patriot League that we’ve never seen before. Normally you know if you’re playing a righty or lefty. I don’t know anything about this kid.”
Preparing multiple in game strategies is additionally important.
“It is also important to be able to adjust during the match to a new team, so preparing different strategies in practice helps with this,” Kusnierz said.
Goldstein mentioned that players are looking for hints in the first few games of the match as to what the opponent favors or struggles with.
The foe is unfamiliar, but Lafayette will also face battle with the elements. Monday marked the first time this season that the Leopards have been able to practice outside.
“As far as preparation, we’ve been indoors all spring,” head coach Eric Ratchford said. “Yesterday [Monday] was the first day we were able to hit outside. This week we are trying to hit as much as we can outside because it should be an outdoor match. It’s different hitting outside than in because the wind blows the ball around.”
Tomorrow will pose a test of the unknown for Lafayette tennis. How both teams respond to it may determine their end-of-season fates.