March 11, 2014
Nathan Pasha is a junior from Atlanta on the men's tennis team. He will be writing a blog exclusively for Georgiadogs.com throughout the 2014 season.
By Nathan Pasha
The night before competition at ITA National Indoors, I never would have guessed our team would lose three straight matches and finish the tournament winless. We had high outside expectations placed on us, because we were seeded and ranked No. 3 at the time, and we also placed high expectations on ourselves as a team to possibly win the tournament. Unexpected occurrences like Coach Diaz suspending Ben Wagland from the tournament, Garrett Brasseaux missing two matches with a groin injury, and Austin Smith missing a match due to sickness made winning more difficult for our team. After playing Texas in the first round and losing 4-3, we played our next two dual matches without a full line-up. We played Florida the next round with five players, and we played Mississippi State with only four players. Competing without a full line-up made us a tougher team, and a few players on the team grew in the process. The players that majorly benefitted from our trip to National Indoors were Eric Diaz, Ben Wagland, and Nick Wood.
Eric Diaz has a veteran presence and is one of the leaders on our team, but he doesn't have much dual match experience in singles. Eric played two very quality, close matches against Florida and Mississippi State under significant pressure. He benefitted from exposure to playing in high-pressure situations in one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Eric had the opportunity to show us that he can compete hard and be a tough, gritty opponent against the some of the best teams in the country. He got more comfortable with handling pressure, which is a huge reason he and Austin continues to have great doubles success this year.
Ben Wagland didn't necessarily grow as a tennis player during National Indoors, but he grew as a person. Ben got suspended from the tournament by Coach Diaz due to conduct issues in the first match, and was forced to watch us compete from the sidelines against Florida and Mississippi State. Ben learned that he must hold himself to the higher standard that Coach Diaz and Coach Glenn expects us to maintain each time we step on the court. Ben also realized that he is a very important piece of our team, because it was difficult for us to win without him. Ben further matured as a person and is holding himself to a higher standard when he takes the court now.
In my opinion, Nick Wood probably grew the most out of everyone on the team. Before Indoors, Nick played No. 5 in the line up. Nick played No. 3 against Florida due to Garrett's injury and Ben's suspension, and played No. 2 against Mississippi State due to Garrett's injury, Ben's suspension, and Austin's sickness. He got exposed to a higher level of play and excelled. Nick beat one of Mississippi State's best players and a highly-ranked opponent. Numerous important lessons can be learned when playing higher-level opponents. When I started playing higher in the line-up, I learned how to better manage matches and finish matches. Nick learned some of the same lessons I learned from playing higher in the line-up, which is very beneficial.
Although we didn't win a dual match in National Indoors, several players on our team benefitted from the adversity that hit our team. Eric gained valuable singles experience that can only be gained from competing in an actual dual match. The intensity, pressure, and emotions a person encounters while competing in a dual match cannot be replicated in any other situation except for a dual match. Ben took steps in maturing to become a better person, as learning how to maintain composure under adversity is extremely important. College tennis is unpredictable, and adversity with either referees, opponents, crowd or the opposing coach will likely happen almost every dual match. His learning how react to uncontrollable circumstances is extremely important moving forward. Lastly, Nick benefitted from playing higher in the line-up. He learned match skills that can only be learned by playing higher-level opponents. In addition, I'm sure his ranking will benefit by beating Mississippi State's highest-ranked player.
Pasha and the Bulldogs take on No. 1 Ohio State on Wednesday. Since National Indoors, the team has won four matches in a row and is 3-0 in SEC play.