MTSU Women’s tennis MTSU Women’s Tennis Celebrates the Barnard Sisters on Senior Day
By: Darius White
MTN Sports Reporter
MURFREESBORO, Tenn.- As the regular season was ending for the MTSU Women’s tennis team, there was one thing that needed to be done before the first serve of Saturday’s matchup against UAB, well technically two. The team would gather on outdoor court No.1 standing in a straight-line shoulder to shoulder ready for the start of the senior ceremony, but also not being ready for the full impact this would eventually bring.
“I’m going to be really sad when they leave,” said MTSU player Noelle Mauro. “It’s definitely going to be different next year without them. I had them here my freshman, sophomore, and now my junior year.”
Mauro like many other players and staff on the team wished this moment never had to come, but this is the harsh reality of all collegiate sports.
Twins Lee and Zani Barnard have been staples of the women’s tennis program at MTSU over the past five seasons, but their seemingly identically faces will be missing from the team’s roster in just a few weeks at the end of this year’s postseason.
“I wish they could stay for 10 years,” said Head Coach Tayo Bailey-Duvall before Saturday’s Senior Day, “but that can’t happen.”
Joining the team in 2017, the Barnard sisters have been playing as Blue Raider international students traveling over 8,500 miles from Midstream, South Africa to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Starting their time at MTSU the sister duo wouldn’t see on court action until the spring of 2018, where they would have an immediate impact. Both sisters won 11 singles matches that spring season. Zani started the year with nine consecutive singles wins going undefeated on courts No. 4, 5 and 6 while only losing two singles matches.
Lee would go undefeated on court No. 4 and lost only one of her four matches on court No. 6. Together the Barnard sisters during their freshmen season only lost five singles matches.
In the next season the Lady Raiders would undergo a coaching change as then Head Coach Charlie Ramsay resigned from the team, leading to the hiring of current Head Coach Bailey who is serving in her fourth season with the team.
“I would say both players have been really key to the success of the team and the potential success of the team over the past four years I’ve been here,” said Bailey.
When describing the play of the twins most of their teammates said they played with a consistency that always gave them the advantage through every match. Other teammates commented on the power both twins bring every time they hit a ball. Teammate Love-Star Alexis had this to say when speaking on the twin’s playstyle and leadership:
“I look up to their style of play because it plays so aggressive and they’re consistent doing it. That’s how I want to play. It’s an inspiration. I feel like it’s hard to hit as hard as they do for every ball, and they can do it for like 10 balls.”
Their teammates also commented on how they want to emulate the twin’s style of play as they are the leaders of the team.
“You always see them playing their game,” said teammate Muskan Gupta. “They win or lose the way they want to play. That’s what I want to be, what I look up to.”
The Barnard twins also have a lot of love for playing with each other. Over the years they have been doubles partners and seen individual growth which in turn has made them want to improve on and off the court.
“It’s always great having her around,“ said Lee on her relationship with sister Zani. “She pushes me, and I push her. I think that has really helped us become better at MTSU.”
Over the course of five seasons Lee has totaled up 111 wins in both singles and doubles play while her sister Zani has totaled up 107 wins, with both looking to add more in the upcoming Conference USA postseason tournament.
Before the start of that tournament, before the start of Saturday’s match, the team would have to get through the ever-looming moment of senior day.
“We both woke up today a little bit emotional,” said Zani on the significance of the day.
The 10-minute ceremony started as coach Bailey began speaking about the greatness of the Barnard sisters, but also their growth. Lee and Zani were seen smiling, laughing, and even wiping their eyes before it was all over. They both received a bouquet of flowers along with individual plaques.
With their time playing collegiate tennis almost being up, the Barnard twins will be missed when their final serve is struck. Until then, they want to continue winning and cherish the time they spent playing when it’s officially over.
“We think about all the memories that we had, but today I think our focus will be to stay focused on the court,” said Zani. “Not let the emotions get to us.”