The ranking isn’t coach Jay Udwadia’s priority concern.
A slow February with two inactive weekends sent the Oklahoma State men’s tennis team outside of top 25 for the first time since the 2016 preseason poll. OSU (8-4) checks in this week as the No. 30 team in the country, but Udwadia said the team’s focus is getting better each week rather than looking at the ranking.
“We throw the ranking out the window because right now, it isn’t the ranking period,” Udwadia said. “Probably in April when it'll kind of start washing out a little bit. We don’t really keep track of the ranking until that time anyway because things are going to be moved around. Then toward April, then you start figure out, are you going to host? are you going to be the second-seed or third team in the tournament? Then it becomes a little bit more important.”
The Cowboys saw the court six times in February. They will match half of last month’s workload this weekend with three matches and a doubleheader. First, OSU will play against No. 35 North Carolina State, who has picked up victories against No. 12 Michigan and No. 27 Pennsylvania this season, at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Then, on Sunday at noon, the team will face off against Memphis, whom it lost 4-0 against last year. The Cowboys will return to Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center for the second half of the doubleheader against Oral Roberts at 5 p.m. Udwadia said the focus of the weekend will come down on Friday with the battle against a top-25 quality team.
“We know North Carolina State is a good team,” Udwadia said. “They did really good in the kickoff weekend and had some good wins, so that could be a really important match for us. I think they are solid all the way through. But it is a perfect home match. You want to take care of your home court and play top-25 teams. I think NC State is one of those teams and we will take care of that one first.”
Udwadia hasn’t had much luck with players’ availability this season. At the beginning of the season, he lost Matej Vocel, who is ranked No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Newcomers Ranking, and arguably OSU’s best singles player. Then, in February, Artur Dubinski was forced to watch his teammate from the sidelines with a right knee injury.
Udwadia has used Emile Hudd, who was planned to only play doubles this season, to fill in the vacant spot. Hudd has posted a 7-1 record in singles play. With Dubinski’s status remaining uncertain, Udwadia said his players are always aware to step up when one is needed.
“That has been our season,” Udwadia said. “We haven’t been healthy this season. We talk to our team (that) it doesn’t matter who is playing and who is not. We just have to go through and give the best effort. When one guy is ready to play, we will be ready. We don’t focus on what we don’t have, we focus on what we do have.”
OSU will return to GTC for the first time in 35 days, when they defeated Arkansas 6-1 on opening weekend. The Cowboys will play at home for the next five matches, albeit with two double headers, before hitting the road for their following four games. Udwadia said he wants the team to make the best of the remaining home-field advantage.
“We don’t really have many matches to host,” Udwadia said. “It is just this weekend, then the weekend after, and then the weekends of conference play. So we just want to maximize the matches we are hosting.”