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College Teams Look Forward to Strong Spring Seasons

January 27, 2015 09:13 AM

Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina

The success of this year’s University of South Carolina men’s tennis team won’t be determined by how many aces or winners they hit. How well USC does this spring will depend on how they compete during their matches, said Josh Goffi, USC men’s tennis coach.

Instead of his players walking on court and trying to hit big forehands and bigger serves, Goffi wants his players to consciously think about what’s working and what their opponents are trying to do during matches. In short, he wants his players to know how they’re going to beat their opponents.

Goffi enters his fifth season as the head coach of USC.

If all of USC’s players can do that, Goffi said, the team will have a great year. “That’ll be everything to us,” he said during an interview last week.

So far, his team is looking like they’re thinking and playing well. USC is 4-1, including a win against No. 31 Stanford last weekend at the ITA All-American Championships. South Carolina’s other collegiate tennis programs also have started their spring seasons strong, including the USC and Clemson women teams, which are both 4-0. The Clemson men have started 2-2.

For the USC men, making sure players think on court might sound obvious but it’s often overlooked, said Goffi, who’s entering his fifth spring season at USC.

In tennis, instructors can focus so much on players’ techniques that match strategy often gets overlooked. And in tennis, strategy is especially important because there are always at least two people playing, unlike other sports, such as golf, where a player plays the course, not an opponent.

“With us, there’s a variable across the net,” Goffi said.

Getting USC players to think and compete during matches has been a priority for Goffi and assistant coach Ryan Young, who joined Goffi in July 2013. Some players learn to compete well during their first year at USC, Goffi said. For other players, it can take months and years to learn.

“We teach guys how to beat (their) opponent,” Young said.

Andrew Adams, one of three seniors on this year USC's team. (USC photo.)

Both coaches are optimistic about this year’s squad’s.

With three seniors, Goffi called the squad “the most mature team we’ve had.”

Yet both coaches have intentionally stayed away from setting numeric goals for the team. They want everything this year to be a process that features getting a little better every day at practice and during matches.