Tennis is a mental game. Unlike most sports, the athlete is his own coach during the match, and Head Coach Gordie Ernst understands this dynamic.

“All we can do is get these guys ready, and they’re out there battling 1-on-1,” Ernst said.

Last weekend, the men’s tennis team battled hard and came out of the VCU 4+1 invitational with a 2-1 record. In the first match of the weekend against Norfolk State, the Hoyas dominated on all courts en route to a 4-0 win.

Senior Andrew Bruhn, junior Charlie Caris and freshman Shane Korber notched singles victories and the doubles pairing of senior Brian Ward and sophomore Casey Distaso completed the sweep.

Next, Georgetown went up against the formidable host, Virginia Commonwealth. The Hoyas couldn’t secure the win, but they were encouraged by Korber’s performance. The freshman, taking a rare turn playing first singles, stunned the 47th-ranked player in the nation in straight sets.

Korber had played third singles in the match against Norfolk State, but moved to first to allow Bruhn to play doubles.

“[Korber] had a good result [against Norfolk State], so we gave him another opportunity,” Assistant Coach Matthew Brooklyn said.

Many coaches would have been hesitant to throw a freshman into the fire so soon against such a difficult opponent, but lack of depth meant that the Hoyas had to make some difficult personnel choices.

“If they’re ready, they’re going in. If they lose, they lose, but they gain experience and build character,” Ernst said. “And I’ve never seen a guy beat a ranked player like that.”

In their final encounter, the Blue and Gray went up against Longwood, a team they hadn’t beaten in five years. But Ernst’s squad shrugged off that history, if they even paid much attention to it before the game.

“Are we healthy? Are the players doing well in school? That all matters more, because tennis is a mental sport,” Ernst said.

In this particular match, Georgetown was able to defeat Longwood, 3-2.

Overall, Ernst was pleased with the performance, but he insisted that VCU is not so formidable that the Hoyas could not beat them in a rematch.

“When it’s the first match of the year, you aren’t ready yet. When you don’t have as much talent, what it comes down to is training and matches, ” Ernst said, “That’s when you can pull off an upset.”

The men’s team next faces Richmond, a team that has struggled to begin the season, winning only a combined 11 games in their four singles matches against VCU.

“They’re the underdog, but they believe that they can beat us, so we carry some pressure. That’s what tennis is, that’s what makes matches interesting.” Ernst said.

For Ernst and the Hoyas, this weekend was the first step in what he hopes will be a winning season, something that has eluded the squad for several years.

“Winning is all about confidence. … It is a learned behavior,” Ernst said.

The men’s tennis team hosts Richmond in an indoor match in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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