For the second consecutive year, the Seton Hall tennis team earned an automatic berth into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. The sixth-seeded Pirates (7-11) will take on third-seeded St. John’s (12-8) on Friday in Indianapolis, Ind., at 12 p.m.
Win or lose, Seton Hall is guaranteed at least three matches in total because of the consolation bracket. If SHU gets by the Red Storm, a date with Xavier, the two-seed, or the winner or seventh-seeded Butler versus tenth-seeded Villanova would await on Saturday, April 25.
St. John’s defeated the Pirates handily back on April 11 in a 7-0 shutout. But coach Greg Wyzykowski still believes in his team.
“It was windy when we played them two weeks ago,” Wyzykowski said. “We missed shots I know we’re capable of making…All (the matches) were close, all competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised if we came away with a 4-3 win. That’s how close it was.”
Seton Hall will come into this weekend riding a three-match losing streak. The team has done its best this season while dealing with an onslaught of injuries. Senior Madison Shoemaker, who has been out for the past two weeks, will not suit up against St. John’s.
“Our biggest obstacle has been injuries,” Wyzykowski said. “Seven of our eight players have been injured at some point during the year. It’s not really so much improving what we’re doing in practice, it’s more a matter of just staying healthy.”
One definite bright spot for the young Pirates has been the play of freshmen Katie Kim, Marisa Quevedo and Luize Strike.
“Playing in every match this season has given me a lot of experience that I will be able to use next year to my advantage,” Kim said. “Just seeing the level of play and going through the mental and emotional ups and downs has made me a stronger player.”
Kim, who hails from Hawaii, led the team with a 5-1 open record in the fall.
“The adjustment has been very smooth,” Kim said. “This is definitely because of the friends I have made here and the support that I have from faculty.”
Despite the injuries the team has faced, Kim said she and her teammates will be ready to go on Friday.
“You can expect that we will all try our hardest,” Kim said. “We are all competitors and want to win.”
Wyzykowski added that the underclassmen, along with a strong recruiting class for next season, will make up a deep program and provide some stability and flexibility.
A big challenge for Wyzykowski is submitting his lineup days before the match. Being that the team has been so banged up, it’s become difficult to predict who will be ready to play.
Unlike other sports, though, it’s not possible to make substitutions in tennis. If a player can’t go, they forfeit the match.
“Some sports you can get a breather, like basketball,” Wyzykowski said. “If your point guard is banged up or tired, you can give them a break. That’s not how tennis works. But we’ll be ready.”