Staying hungry

Ferris tennis teams ready to get back on the court

Tennis will not be played at Ferris until at least January.

Like all other Bulldog sports, the tennis season was postponed until 2021 to keep athletes, coaches, and fans safe from COVID-19.

Despite the GLIAC’s decision to suspend tennis competitions in 2020, tennis head coach Mark Doren is doing his best to keep his players as engaged in the sport as possible.

“It’s tough right now,” Doren said. “Basically, all we can do is have team meetings and individual meetings to talk about things.”

COVID-19 certainly created different and challenging times for athletic teams. However, tennis naturally allows for social distancing and makes the CDC’s guidelines for safe interaction relatively easy to enforce.

“We are lucky that we are a sport that the CDC says is the safest you could play,” Doren said. “Even golf is No. 2 to tennis. We’re 80 feet apart outdoors.”

Because of this, Doren’s players can train individually or in small groups. They have kept up with their training when possible, and the head coach was proud of his players for taking the initiative to stay in shape and prepared for the next time they can take the court.

“A lot of the players are getting together on their own, hitting at local parks, and they’re trying to keep it up as much as they can,” Doren said. “We’re just waiting for the different phases of our athletic department’s re-entry.”

When the Bulldogs re-take the court, Doren has high hopes for their season outlook. He believes Ferris will have the “strongest women’s team” that the school has had in years, and he is encouraged by the health of the men’s team this season after last year’s team was ravaged by injuries. Now that they are healthy, Doren is excited to show what the team can do.

Before COVID-19 canceled the spring season, the men’s team was 2-8 with wins over Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana and Rockhurst University from Missouri. The season ended before the Bulldogs played a single conference match.

The men’s team had nine matches remaining and both the GLIAC and national tournament were canceled by COVID-19.

“It made for tough times,” Doren said. “The men were basically just starting their season. It was tough for everybody, especially the seniors. Their last season got canceled and they just didn’t have it in the cards to come back for another year and use their extra year of eligibility.”

The NCAA granted spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, but many seniors simply could not make it work to put their post-graduation plans on hold to return to college for another athletic season.

The women’s team nearly finished their season before COVID-19 canceled athletics. With only two matches canceled by the virus, the women’s team finished their season 11-9, including a 6-3 record in GLIAC play.

Many of Doren’s players are in Ferris’s Professional Tennis Management (PTM) program and have access to both the indoor and outdoor courts Ferris has available through the PTM program. Other players continue to train on their own or in small groups.

Doren appreciated that his players also worked diligently during the summer to keep themselves in shape. He acknowledged that his international players (especially those from Europe) were not allowed to go outside for a few months but was grateful to learn that they resumed training as soon as they could.

Despite Doren’s high hopes for the upcoming season, keeping his players healthy is of paramount importance.

“I hope that we stay safe and healthy; that’s the number one priority,” Doren said. “Even if we do resume, we know that there will be a battle of some sorts against the virus, but hopefully we can stay safe and healthy and hit the ground running and compete for a GLIAC championship and qualify for the NCAA national championship.”

Doren recognized that any season that does occur will be much different from past seasons. Social distancing will impact everyone involved with the teams. The players, who are used to sitting together in meetings and giving hi-fives, will have to practice social distancing. Through all the mystery and confusion that comes with COVID-19, Doren has remained optimistic.

“As long as we stay positive and stay focused on playing tennis, I think we can push aside all the fears and the weirdness, and I think we’ll get through it just fine,” Doren said.

Doren and his players are excited to get back on the court and play the game they love, but nothing is guaranteed with COVID-19.

For now, they will have to wait.