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MTSU men's tennis team wins back-to-back Conference USA titles

Will Stephenson

MTN Sports Director

"The Post-Match Podcast" takes listeners into the team bus of the Blue Raiders on their way home from winning their second consecutive C-USA championship. This win gives them an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament and the team will find out who they will face after April 29th during the tournament's selection day. The NCAA tournament is set to last from May 7-9, 2021.

Audio Transcript:

"(Will): 'The Post-Match Podcast'. brought to you by MTN Sports, hosted by Will Stephenson, produced by Houston Chapman.

Welcome to 'The Post-Match Podcast,' a weekend series where I catch up with the MTSU men's tennis team following each match in this year's Conference USA tournament.

The Blue Raiders just beat Old Dominion 4-1 in Charlotte to clinch their second straight Conference USA title. After taking the doubles point, MTSU secured the win with wins on courts 2, 3, and 4 in singles. I was able to catch up with head coach Jimmy Borendame from the team bus on their way back to Murfreesboro. Let's listen to how he is feeling after becoming a back-to-back conference champion.

Hey coach, how's it going?

(Jimmy): Hey, hold on one second, we are turning the music down. We're jamming on here.

(Will): Oh, you're fine. First off, Jimmy, congratulations on winning back-to-back championships. Can you just give me a quick little look on whats on your mind after the ended?

(Jimmy): After the match I just was thrilled. I mean, for last year not being able to put the icing on the cake after we were playing so well, and then obviously it just abruptly end and to come back and just verify the season and last season with a trophy and a ring, it's just awesome for the guys and I pour myself into this team. So it means a lot to verify how hard I work and time I spent away from my family the get this W, it means a lot.

(Will): Yea, going back to the start of it, you guys had a pretty big win in doubles today with Stijn and Pavel taking down the #60 doubles pairing in the country. Tell me a little about that matchup and how they were able to bagel them.

(Jimmy): Yea, you know its weird because they haven't been playing the greatest the past two days and I don't know what they had for lunch but we need to eat that again. They lost five points total. I literally was on their curt today and I didn't do anything. I tried to stay out of their way {chuckles} and they just, they were on fire. They literally were on fire. We lost two points on serve, and three on return. Five total points in the whole match. But really, the story of the day is really the one that y'all don't know about, is before the match, big Chris Edge woke up and hurt his right wrist. he was not able to hit his two-handed backhand. Edge has been playing great tennis in doubles, singles, last year conference player of the year and literally was a game-time decision wether he was going to play or not and I kinda put it on Chris, I told him he gets to decide. He's earned that right, he's won so many matches for the squad. Truth of the matter is i told the referee that we were going to pull him out and as the referee walked away, I saw Chris in the corner of my eye hit a one-handed backhand return and I called the referee back before he could go tell the other team that we were pulling him out, left Chris in, and he lost three games on the whole day. I mean, talk about Willis Reed coming down the tunnel, New York Knicks, Michael Jordan with the flu, I mean, Chris Edge is the man. Huge. Without a two-handed backhand, big boy tennis like a boss. Pretty awesome.

(Will): And thats just a day after we talked to him about how he's finishing first, he's made a habit of it and he does the exact same thing and it's crazy to hear that he did that outside of his normal play-style.

(Jimmy): Yea without his two-handed backhand which is his deadly weapon so the guy could probably rub two sticks together and probably get a W.

(Will): You know, we talked a little yesterday about how you've noticed that the team just comes out starting slow in singles. You talked about how they had to get a little bit of momentum to start, and the same thing kind of happened today. So, what do you think changed the energy for those courts that started out a little slow to change the momentum midway through the match?

(Jimmy): So today they kind of came out pretty good for the singles. We smacked them so bad in doubles that you knew they had to have more in the tank and that they were better than that so you knew there was going to be a push back. Kind of like when you beat somebody 6-0 in the first set, you know the guy's going to make a bit of a push and that was their push going into singles and our guys just kind of settled in and got a little fiery. Brock got back to typical Brock, he got himself riled up down there at one singles with some words, he got a little bit of a fire in his belly. Stijn just kept being Stijn and Pavel and Tom just hanging around in those second sets. They just kept pressure on the other team because we weren't gonna go away.

(Will): We watched the video of you celebrating with the team after the final court finished and I could see the excitement when you jumped into the dog pile yourself with your players and I just want you to give me a rundown on your emotions and how it feels to finally be back-to-back champions.

(Jimmy): Yea, I mean, it's just awesome. Like I said, it's really just to justify all the hard work and effort we put in the program, the support we get from the community and what I ask these guys to do. They're teasing if we are gonna do fitness tomorrow morning and that stuff. And you know these guys willingly put in the effort. If I told guys we have to lay on the ground and do a bunch of pushups before we serve, they just look at me and say 'alright coach' and they just do it. They fought in and it's really fun to see. We've got a really cool thing going here and I love them and they love me back.

(Will): And obviously the goal for winning the conference was finally met today, but now it's time to look ahead to the NCAA tournament. If you could, just tell me a little about how that works and when, in your mind, you transition from celebration to preparation.

(Jimmy): {Chuckles} You know, Coach Cali is on it. I hope I'm not rubbing off on him too much because I want him to be his own coach, but we find out on Thursday the 29th is the big selection show. The NCAA tournament starts May 7th, 8th, and 9th and one of my weaknesses is I don't really enjoy the wins. The plan is to enjoy this win for as many days as possible and let the boys focus on some final exams and we're going to train to go to the NCAA tournament, we'e just happy to be there. This team is dangerous and we think we can do some damage and get a couple W's and we aren't done yet.

(Will): Awesome and thank you for joining us and congratulations on this huge win and can't wait to see you guys when you get back.

(Jimmy): Thanks Will.

(Will): I also spoke with team co-captain Tom Moonen, who won his match on court 3 to get the fourth and final point of the championship for MTSU. Let's listen to our conversation about his emotions after clinching the title.

(Tom): What's up boss?

(Will): How's it going man? Congratulations.

(Tom): Thank you so much, thank you so much. It's been a day.

(Will): Last year, we had you on 'Blue Raider Extra Point' and I asked you how that ring fits from 2019 and you told me that it was nice, but you could handle another one. And here we are two years later, you've finally done it, you're back-to-back conference champions, and the beautiful part is you ended the match on your court. Tell me a little bit about what was going through your mind at the bottom of the dog pile with your team.

(Tom): Dude, I remember that quote. I said it was a little heavy, but I could carry another one. And that's what this past year has been about and the reason why I came back, obviously, is to enjoy another year with these guys and we were able to do this and last year we didn't get to finish a great season and we all knew that we were ready for this to happen and I don't know man, it was just awesome. Everything about today is just crazy, I don't think you could write a better story. And obviously I don't even know if you know but I won the clincher by surviving two match points in my second set and it was nuts.

(Will): Yea, going to that matchup that you had itself. You lost the first set 1-6, and then had a hell of a battle to win a tiebreak in the second set and then you took that energy into the third set to win 6-1. Talk me through that match and explain to me what was going through your head each break between the sets.

(Tom): So, honestly to start off, we came off of a great doubles point but I've got to say my opponent played lights out in the first set and I don't think I played really well so he made it tough for me. he's one of those guys that didn't miss a lot of serves and put the pressure on and I think I was playing him the right way. I had to take a step back and make a couple more balls, which I did well in the second set but yea, I was on the back foot the entire time for those first two sets and I got down a break in the first and I let that set get away from me and then the second I got down a break early again and he got to serve for it at 5-4 and I was telling myself 'just hang around, we're gonna get a chance, do everything you can to get a chance.' And then I knew that once i leveled the match at five all, it was there for the taking and it was my match and I think I really showed that in the tiebreak and how I played that third set from getting to that five all to getting to that break that it was my match.

(Will): Awesome Tom, well I don't want to keep you too long so go in there and celebrate with your team, have a great bus ride home, and congratulations again on the championship win.

(Tom): Thanks man, really appreciate it, really appreciate it, see you soon.

(Will): The Blue Raiders finished their season 17-7 including an undefeated schedule at home. They also have the longest active home winning streak in the country with 29 straight wins. In a season where they took down powerful universities such as Iowa, South Florida, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt twice, they finally capped it off with the Conference USA title they have been waiting for since last year when their season was cancelled from Covid. Now they will wait to hear more about their automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Thank you for listening, and I'll leave you with the sound of the Blue Raiders' celebration after winning the 2021 C-USA championship.

(Team screaming in cheer)

I'm Will Stephenson, and this has been 'The Post-Match Podcast.'"


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