After vigorous training and anticipation, tennis season is finally here. The team of nine women and nine men are ready to begin the season. Tennis season will officially start on Feb. 17 as the Golden Eagles play their first match against Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. “The main focus going into this match is to beat them because we have been so close in the past,” senior Grace Cusick said.
The fall pre-season match at JBU maintained a close score between JBU and Hendrix. Cusick and her doubles partner, Caitlin King, won their match against Hendrix. However, Hendrix came out on top in the overall team match up.
The JBU tennis team primarily plays NCAA Division II schools, making the competition challenging for the Eagles.
“We play a lot of Division II schools, so it doesn’t give us the best look,” Cusick said. “But it’s better for our team in the long run.”
Most of the matches are away, so the women and men teams travel together. A typical traveling match would include seven women and six men. A typical home match would include all 18 players.
“Our team is a tight-knit family,” King said.
“We are a unique team because it is guys and girls and we practice together unlike other sports at JBU,” Cusick said.
The women and men’s teams often attend social events together, go out to dinner and have dinner together in the cafeteria. These activities help them bond.
Ross Minner, a junior on the men’s team, added, “It’s a family that you can go to after you take a loss. You go sit by them and you don’t have to say a word–just by being near them you know it’s going to be alright.”
Each match includes individual play and team play.
“The hardest part about tennis is the individuality of it,” Kamal Fulghem, senior tennis player, said. “It’s not like basketball where you prepare with the whole team.”
Cusick and King began as tennis partners their freshman year. The two seniors call themselves “the dynamic duo” because they are best friends on and off the court.
Playing against each other in high school matches, the two Kansas natives never thought they would attend the same college or be double teamed. When they got to JBU, they were matched up as partners for doubles play.
Two men’s team players, Kamal Fulghem and Ross Miner, also call themselves “the dynamic duo”:
“We are like Batman and Robin,” Fulghem said. “He picks up where I lack. Our tennis skills are very compatible.”
This year, Minner tore his shoulder and is unable to play in the upcoming season.
“Losing Ross was the biggest loss because I looked forward to playing with him,” Fulghem said.
“A lot of double partners aren’t friends off the court.” Minner added, “It was hard for me to accept the fact that I was hurt, because the season was something that I have been looking forward to. Tennis is my outlet.”
Later in the season, the team will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the NAIA Tennis Regionals to play more competitive teams. Despite the smaller size of JBU, the tennis team believes they can do well and succeed.
The JBU women’s tennis team invites the JBU community to their first home match against Arkansas Tech University on March 16 at 1 p.m. Other home matches include both the men’s and women’s teams and are scheduled for April 3, at 2 p.m. against Oklahoma Wesleyan University, April 10 at 3 p.m. against the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and April 15 at 11 a.m. against the University of the Ozarks.