Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Talkin' With Tash
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 03, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 3, 2012

TUCSON, Ariz. -

Hey Wildcats!

Last weekend was going to be a big one, traveling to Montgomery, Alabama to compete in the Blue Gray Classic, which was a three day tournament for both men and women. We knew that this weekend was another opportunity to beat a top-25 team and move up the rankings and get Arizona officially on the tennis map.

Before departing from Tucson on Wednesday and after the ITA rankings had come out, we knew that we were ranked third in our bracket. Our first opponent was SMU, who we had never come across before.

The journey was long, as we flew to Atlanta and took a really small plane to Montgomery, where we rented two cars; Coach Vicky with the SUV and Coach Ryan following behind in the van blaring music. This trip was special, as each team was staying with a host family who would look after them for the three days of the tournament.

The first night In Alabama, the tournament put on a posh banquet where the men had to wear a shirt and tie and the girls wore dresses. We enjoyed some really nice food and entertainment.

Part of our entertainment was taken care of by our freshman Hailey Johnson who volunteered to represent U of A in a game of musical chairs! I love those freshman challenges. It was a really good night to kick off the tournament.

It was also a good chance for us to see old friends that we hadn’t seen since junior tennis or from back home. I saw four of my friends from England, which was cool. After photographs, we headed back to our host families for a good night’s rest before an 11 a.m. match on Friday.

Friday was a long day, because it rained all day and matches got postponed. We didn’t get to practice but instead we made ourselves useful and had lunch at Panera, studied and then saw  a movie.

Because play was postponed, that meant we had to play two matches on Saturday. We had never done that before and knew it was going to be very tough physically.

Saturday came and play had started against SMU, but the format of our matches that day would be a bit different. We were to play both matches starting with singles and if the match was undecided, we would finish with the doubles point.

The match was tight, but we clinched it in singles and beat SMU 4-2.

Our next opponent two hours later was against the top seed Virginia, who had won 5-0 in the morning. We knew that this was going to be a tough match, but nothing that we weren’t prepared for or couldn’t handle.

Once again, we started with singles. Virginia started strong in every singles position and we were fighting to get a point on the board. It was getting late and the floodlights came on as it turned into a night match. It was getting tight for us as we had lost three matches and Virginia only needed one more to get the match.

It came down to Hailey Johnson, who was battling to keep us alive and playing some great tennis at the no. 6 position. Hailz had lost the first set, but was coming back in the second and just lost in a tiebreak 7-6.

The result of the match was disappointing for us. We had worked so hard all season and had some fantastic results, but we gave Virginia too much respect and frankly didn’t turn up to compete and it showed. Virginia stepped out on court confident and thought this was going to be an easy win, and it was in some respect. We were fighting ourselves as we were playing against the name “Virginia” and not the girl on the other side of the net.

That night, the team headed back to Lacey and my host family, who put on a team party for us. They served us barbeque and brownies. It was a great night and the food was so good.

In our post-match talk, we spoke about coming out the next day with a different attitude, ready to represent and ready to go from the first point. We were up against Illinois, who had just lost to Alabama, 4-3.

When Sunday came, we started with the doubles point, our usual format. Doubles started slowly, but we stepped up and took chances (mainly due to Coach Ryan) and got the doubles point to go 1-0.

We didn’t play our best tennis, but we showed desire and competed at a high level. We took charge in singles, winning three matches convincingly and taking the match.

The team meeting was positive and everyone showed great team energy and spirit to finish the weekend on a high with a 2-1 record.

 It was now a quick shower, change and eat, as we headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Tucson. This is where our problems began. Our plane from Montgomery was delayed and we were not going to catch our connection in Atlanta, which was the last flight of the day.

We were all panicking as we either had exams, tutor appointments, or classes that we were going to miss on Monday if we didn’t make the connection. It ended up that we made it to Atlanta, but missed our connection and so we had to stay the night there. We met a new friend in Atlanta, our bus driver Sam (Sammy), who was a great tour guide and showed us the first-ever Chick-Fil-A in America!

Anyway, we finally made it to the airport again the next morning, with half the team leaving with Coach Ryan in the morning and the rest leaving at a later time with Coach Vicky and Ross.

Overall, it was a great trip and I would love to go back and play the Blue Gray Classic. We look forward to our next matches this weekend and hope to get two more wins against Sacramento State and Saint Mary's. I think they will be great matches as we have a lot of history with both of those teams.

Thanks again for everyone’s support!




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