After having their seasons shortened due to the pandemic last season, APSU tennis looked forward to getting back on the courts this spring.
While both teams are set to “host” their first match of the season, no APSU tennis will be played in Clarksville until mid-March.
The Govs have played in the Governors Indoor Tennis Center since Sept. of 1985; however, on June 24 APSU athletics announced it would be reconfiguring it into an indoor practice facility to benefit other programs as well.
The courts were exchanged for a grass-like material that resembles the surface of Fortera Stadium, and will now be available to over 300 APSU student-athletes.
With only the outdoor courts available and tennis not able to be played in inclement weather, the teams have been forced to practice in neighboring Hopkinsville, Ky at the YMCA’s ClearSpan Indoor Tennis Facility.
While they no longer have an indoor facility, APSU tennis has seen several upgrades to their outdoor courts recently and will continue to in the foreseeable future.
In addition to the resurfacing of four of the outdoor courts that took place late in 2019, APSU Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison has said plans are in place to install a scoreboard system and “seating worthy of a championship-level program” in the near future.
Many members of the Clarksville tennis community were not pleased at the university’s decision. President of the Clarksville Tennis Association Preston Howle voiced his displeasure in the matter, saying that Harrison’s view was skewed due to his background in football, and that he overlooked the community aspect of the building.
“I think the athletic director looked at that over there and just made the evaluation that ‘It’s just four courts, you can only have eight people playing. That indoor center only accommodates eight people at a time,’” Howle said. “He made a lot of evaluations, but I think his judgement was skewed because he is a football guy.
“When we first got wind of the possibility of that tennis center being converted to a football practice facility, some of us from the Clarksville Tennis Association went to go talk to him about that and he assured us that was just something they were taking a look at and it wasn’t going to happen for years to come. I think he took advantage of this COVID pandemic to do it when nobody was looking, and I think the timing of that just really stinks. Possibly he would do it anyway, but he did it when nobody was watching.”
Howle went on to say that he and members of the CTA spoke with Harrison in 2018. There, they discussed the importance of the facility to not just the team, but the Clarksville tennis community. He even went as far to say that they could also provide documentation of how many people used the facility and how they also financially supported it.
As the coach of both the men’s and women’s team, Ross Brown said he is just focused on what he can control, and that is his team’s effort on the court—no matter the location.
“It is what it is and if you focus on that then you don’t have a chance of moving forward,” Brown said following the women’s season-opener in Nashville. “That is the only thing that I am concerned with. I am going to control what I can control, control what [Maria Sorbello Morrison], the associate head coach can control.
“I keep telling the players that we are very fortunate we can go and practice up in Hopkinsville and the athletic department has been extremely supportive in getting us up there and that has kept our program together…Our job is to do the best we can and that is what we are about.”
While Brown understands the irritation from others such as Howle, he knows the university has to do what benefits the most student-athletes.
“The tennis community is certainly disappointed about that, but the school sees where they can use that facility for more athletes,” Brown said. “I would be fibbing if I told you anything else. We would like to continue how we were, but that is where it is. Our job is to do the best we can. We have had great support with extra budget, getting to Hopkinsville and looking at our outdoor courts just getting resurfaced. Our focus is winning championships, and we are not going to dwell on what we don’t have.”
For the women’s team, they played their first match on Jan. 24 at Hadley Park in Nashville, Tenn. In addition to the one non-conference home match, Brown also said the that they may schedule additional matches to be played in Evansville, Ind. where the men are set to play their first three non-conference home matches.
Ana Albertson decided to return for her fifth year by utilizing the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility. She calls the athletic departments decision “disappointing,” but says that the team’s traveling has brought them closer together.
“It was pretty disappointing,” Albertson said. “It kind of feels like sometimes we are always given the short end of the stick. I am so close to my team and that is one of the reasons why I chose to come back, because I love this team. I love my coaches and I love all the girls. It was disappointing, but I feel like traveling every day to have to practice makes us even closer.”
APSU tennis is scheduled to return to Clarksville, Tenn on March 9 when the women host Illinois State. Three days later, they welcome Western Kentucky before beginning OVC play in Nashville, Tenn against Tennessee State.The men return to their home court on March 26 where both teams are scheduled to host Jacksonville State.