MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — For the seventh time in nine seasons, the Memphis Tigers men’s tennis team is headed to the NCAA Tournament after earning an at-large bid.
“It’s all of the hard work that we’ve put in on the court, off the court,” said returning senior Jan Pallares. “It’s so cool to make it and play against the best teams in the United States.”
“This group had to overcome so much, sacrifice a lot,” said Tigers coach Paul Goebel. “I think they’ve been very grateful is that comes to mind this year just to be able to play. When you have that taken away from you, especially so suddenly and unexpectedly. I think they just come out every day in practice and every day on the match days just really excited to play.”
On top of that, this Tigers team is just a melting pot of cultures. The players have really leaned on each other since arriving at the U of M, majority of them from different countries.
“I couldn’t speak English, but I was excited for the challenge,” Pallares said.
Pallares, a native of Barcelona, came to the United State when he was 17 years old.
“It’s a big transition,” said returning freshman James Story, from Wales. “It’s a long way from home, sometimes it gets tough. I do get homesick.”
“We’re all there for each other. We help each along.”
They also draw influence from each other’s different playing styles.
“We’ve got some very talented guys on the team that I can take some inspiration from,” Story said. “As annoying as it might be when they do it against me, I like to learn a few things off them.”
“In Barcelona, Spain we basically – the way we are taught is to just make balls in play, rally,” said Pallares. “And here in America, I feel it’s serve and volley a lot so, I’ve improved that a lot.”
The furthest the Tigers have gotten in the NCAA Tournament is to the round of 16. This year, the plan to just take it day by day to get further than they’ve ever been before.
“Our first one, Georgia Tech, is a tough team,” said Story. “So, we’ll take it match by match and not get too ahead of ourselves. But I’m sure that’s in the back of everyone’s mind a little bit and it would be very nice to go deep in this tournament.”
The Tigers will take on Georgia Tech Saturday at 9 a.m. CT in Knoxville, Tenn.