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Doubles major in chemistry Tennis duos build together

UTRGV’s top pair of Juan Cruz Soria (left) and Kobe Jansen fist bump during doubles practice last Tuesday at the Orville I. Cox Tennis Center. Sophomore Jansen and junior Soria have played together for two seasons. LESLEY ROBLES/ THE RIDER PHOTOS

When people think tennis, most think of an individual sport. Two competitors squaring off, separated by a net, equipped with only a racket, tennis ball and the will to beat the person staring back at you on the opposite side of the court. When playing doubles, adding a teammate to the equation brings a different dynamic to the game of tennis that forces individuals to work together.

Tennis doubles requires communication, trust and rhythm between two teammates who share one common goal: win.

Top men’s doubles pair, sophomore Koby Jansen and junior Juan Cruz Soria, and top women’s doubles duo, senior Reegan Greenwood and sophomore Dominique Esparza, work together to build chemistry to achieve success on the court. The ultimate goal is to win the Western Athletic Conference Championships, a three-day tournament on April 29 in Brownsville at the Brownsville Tennis Center.

Men’s tennis Head Coach Brett Bernstein, a former member of the UTPA tennis team from 2006-2010, broke down the complexity of doubles play.

“You’re both trying to get the job done in your own way but you have to work along another individual, so you learn what that individual does well, how they handle themselves in certain situations, whether they’re going to rise to the occasion or whether you’re going to have to rise to the occasion,” said Bernstein, who is in his first year as a head coach. “Tennis is a very individual sport and you’re thrown into a team dynamic where you have to learn to rely on someone.”

In the NCAA Division 1 format, doubles matches are played first, followed by singles matches. There are three doubles pair from each team which face off to begin the match.

“It sets the tone for the match, really. It goes so quick, often it’s over in half an hour, so you got to be switched on right from the word go,” said Jansen, who hails from Queensland, Australia. “If your opponents are a little bit off, you can jump all over them and if you’re not switched on, it can mess up your whole match. A lot of it is psychological, that first doubles point.”

Greenwood, who with her win against Laredo Community College on Tuesday, moved into a tie with former player Mary Jane Meyer (1987-90) for fourth on the all-time career single wins list in school history, talked about how having a teammate in doubles compares to single play.

“Once you get to play with them a few matches, you get to know their game style and how you work together. If you’re having a bad day you always have your teammate to pick you up,” Greenwood said. “It’s always good to have a good relationship off the court as well, which I think all of us do, so that helps.”

Cohesiveness is a key in any team sport. Women’s tennis Head Coach Stephanie Wooten-Quijada touched on the thought process that goes into choosing doubles partners and the team’s goals as the season comes to a close.

“I think it’s a lot of chemistry. Dominique and Reegan are good friends and they enjoy playing together so they’re a great team. I try and place players with personalities that can mesh on court,” said Wooten-Quijada, who’s in her first season as head coach at UTRGV. “We need to stay happy and healthy. If they’re happy they play hard and if they’re healthy they play better. So, we’re just looking to keep improving, especially in doubles. Right now, our goal is to win conference and go to the NCAA tournament.”

Two UTRGV seniors, Greenwood and Julia Perez, a Roma native, were sent off with a 6-1 win on Senior Day against LCC, playing in the final home match of their careers.

The women’s tennis team will wrap up regular season play when they take on the Texas State University Bobcats on April 15 in San Marcos at 9 a.m.

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