2021 NCAA Championships: Best of Media Day
Tuesday was Media Day at the 2021 NCAA Championships, ahead of the women's and men's quarterfinals at the USTA National Campus. Tournament action in Orlando, Fla., began on Sunday, with women's Round of 16 action, followed by the men's last 16 on Monday.
Round of 16 recap: Duke women, Georgia and USC men spring upsets
Ahead of the quarterfinals—with the women's slate set for Wednesday and the men on tap for Thursday—the head coach and a key player from each remaining team addressed the media in virtual press conferences from the Campus.
Read on for some of the day's highlights.
Bruce Berque, head coach of the defending champion Texas men
On the Longhorns' 9-1 record in 4-3 matches this spring, including their Round-of-16 victory Monday…
I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of consistent resilience and clutch performances time after time. I don’t know if it’s luck or just good fortune, but really what I think it is is we’ve got a close group of guys that really enjoy playing with each other and for each other, who get along very well off the court.
They’ve shown a commitment to not only work on their tennis games but also work on the mental aspect of their games and some of the subtleties that come with playing a team match.
Brian Kalbas, head coach of the undefeated No. 1 seed North Carolina women
On managing a uniquely large and talented roster of 13 women, including three fifth-year seniors and three freshmen...
The team has handled it extremely well. It’s the most unselfish, most team-first group I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m not handling it real well, just because I’m trying to make everybody happy and I know I’m not going to please everybody.
I really wish that in collegiate tennis you could have a couple substitutions and give opportunities like they do in other sports, but unfortunately we don’t have that opportunity.
Since [ITA National] Indoors, we have not played the same lineup. We’ve had a next-up mentality with each player being ready to go. We’ve played different singles lineups, we’ve played different doubles lineups, and everybody’s contributed. It’s been a real team effort throughout the year. We feel very confident that whoever’s out there is competitively and mentally ready to go.
Bryan Shelton, head coach of the top-seeded Florida men
On how his team has responded from losing the SEC title match to Tennessee…
After the Tennessee loss, we certainly recognized that we probably needed to adjust our doubles. We took some risk in changing up some teams that had been together for a while, and brought some other players into the mix...
I feel like those moves are going to continue to help as we hopefully move through the tournament. We were able to put some quality time into our doubles over the last couple of weeks, and I feel like we’re going to get a payoff. Last night we saw some fruit from the moves that we made, so it was really good to see.
Sam Riffice, Florida junior and captain
On the Gators' depth…
I think college tennis is won in the lineup spots four through six, and we have the best four through six in the country, I believe. Those guys, every match, they come out there and they barely lose, they barely lose sets.
Katarina Jokic, Georgia senior
On her interaction with freshman teammate Lea Ma during their Round of 16 win over UVA…
Lea usually doesn’t show much emotion, which it totally fine—we’re used to it, and that’s who she is. But seeing her yesterday double fist-pumping and looking at me, cheering for me, it was incredible. My favorite part of my match was when it was close in the third set, she looked at me and she goes, “Let’s go Kat.” And I was like, “OK, we got this.”
Anna Rogers, North Carolina State fifth-year senior
On the growth of the program through her five years...
Honestly, when I came in as a freshman I didn’t expect any of this. It’s pretty crazy to see how far we’ve come. Literally we started from the bottom, and we’re here now.
It’s pretty crazy seeing the evolution of the team over the years. It’s just so rewarding because of how hard we’ve worked to get to this point, and how much respect we’ve had to gain along the way. It just feels amazing and I think all of us are happy to be here, and we just want more.
Simon Earnshaw, head coach of the No. 6 seed North Carolina State women
On the benefits of playing a tough ACC schedule throughout the spring, with four ACC teams reaching the NCAA final eight...
I think that can go both ways, actually. Hopefully strength in numbers will raise everybody up. But you can also just cannibalize each other in a way, because you’re running the gauntlet that has been the ACC the last couple years.
Michael Woodson, head coach of the No. 2 seed Baylor men
On playing TCU for what will be the fourth time this season, in the NCAA quarterfinals...
For us, we’ve seen it all [with TCU]. We’ve won the doubles point and lost, we’ve lost the doubles point and won against this team, and we’ve won the doubles point and won. So it’s basically been all the different paths against this team in three different venues. So we understand what to expect and feel that we’re going to be ready for the challenge.
Trent Bryde, Georgia junior
On learning from Manny Diaz, who is in his 33rd season as UGA head coach...
Manny does an amazing job of motivating us guys. Obviously with his resume and everything he’s accomplished, just to be able to play for him and under his experience is something so valuable to us. Manny has so many incredible stories, times where they’ve been down championship match points, overcoming so much adversity throughout a season. It’s something that we can use ourselves to push, even when things are against us… We know that we can take this title.
Howard Joffe, head coach of the No. 2 seed Texas women
On working with a performance coach…
We have a performance coach that works with our ladies, and he really changed the way that I view things. He came and spoke to our ladies, just conceptually about how performance works…
In recent years, [the science has] changed, to suggest the following: There’s two different systems working with all of us. One is the brain and the other is our bodies.
The way he described it to our ladies is that the brain is the ‘rider’ and the body is the ‘horse.’ How many parents or frustrated coaches have said, 'I just told her there’s no pressure, relax, go enjoy yourself.' And the rider knows it, but the horse is yelping and screaming.
A lot of what we’ve done with the players is getting them in tune with what their body is feeling and what their body is telling them. I think that’s where a lot of tennis is played. On the tennis court, it’s gritty, it’s guttural—it’s what the players are really feeling.