Men's Tennis Player Blog: Stefan Szacinski

by Elizabeth Stuart
+0
Men's Tennis Player Blog: Stefan Szacinski

Tues., April 27, 2010
“Before continuing our streak to the SEC Tournament, Neal, Mark, John, Dave and I were involved in community work with AgMagic where we guided first grade classes through a series of animal and plant exhibitions. I was very cautious dealing with the crawfish because they are pretty agile and those claws can get you if you’re not careful! We were also able to get close and personal with some of the kids and the animals too. Bowie (Mark Bowtell) got the opportunity to hold one of the calves; however, he didn’t seem too comfortable as it looked like he was choking the poor thing.

Anyway, coming off an impressive win against Arkansas on the road, we were psyched for the SEC Tournament on Thursday. We were facing the same Alabama team that we had a tight loss to last time at their place, 4-3. This match would be very important as a win would help our chances greatly of making the NCAA Tournament.

Well, we left for Lexington, Ky. on Wednesday morning and had a solid session on the Kentucky facility to get accustomed to the courts.  We stayed at the Crowne Plaza and had a massive dinner at an Italian restaurant our first night in Lexington, which most of us couldn’t finish. The place was incredible because somehow they managed to turn this old church into restaurant, but we stayed focused on the Alabama match.  We knew that it was going to be a battle for every point against Alabama, but with our good run of matches, we were confident we could end up with the victory. The doubles point was evenly contested. Jules (Julien Gauthier) and Bowie (Mark Bowtell) lost at No. 3 doubles, but Roger and I were next off the court with a 8-5 victory at No. 2, and it came down to Fist (Sebastian Carlson) and Neal at the No. 1 spot.  They were able to overcome their opponents in a tiebreaker by winning 9-8, and in the end, the doubles point would be a crucial factor in the match. It was very interesting because the singles started off differently on various courts. Cody and Jules were unable to overcome their opponents, but I was able to blast past my opponent in straight sets. Bowie was able to come back from a 3-1 deficit on court two to emerge victorious 6-3 in the third set, and that meant it all went down to Neal and Sebastian for a win. Fist was yet again unbelievable coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the tiebreaker to clinch and bring it home for the tigers. His clutchness in adverse situations is something to be admired for, and it’s the fourth-straight time he has won in the third set. This was a massive win for us because it most likely advanced us into the NCAA draw. For our next match, we had to play second-ranked Tennessee team.

Well, we had a great run, but we knew facing this Tennessee team would be a tough task for our relatively young team. The doubles point was taken by Tennessee, but in the singles, it was a real battle. On every court, each of us gave a good honest fight. We were able to get in some handy early leads with Neal getting up 3-0 in the first set and Fist, Jules and Cody showing promising signs. Even though we jumped out early, we were unable to capitalize on all courts. Unfortunately, Jules, Neal, and I couldn’t hang in there, and I wound up losing in straight sets. Even though we lost 4-0, we fought really hard on all courts showing that Tiger spirit. All in all, it has been a successful past couple weeks and we are doing what we can to give ourselves the best shot to make the NCAA Tournament.

Wed., April 14, 2010
After a tough week in Alabama, we had a few days of practice to tweak and prepare for an important stretch of matches. We had an advantage of playing at home in the Dub against Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Florida, and it was nothing short of a rollercoaster of emotions and action.

First, we faced the No. 11 Kentucky team on Friday on a sunny Louisiana day at the Dub. We knew it was going to be a tough encounter but we have been competitive against many teams of similar stature. Neal and Sebastian had a great victory against Kentucky’s doubles team, 13th-ranked Eric Quigley and Brad Cox. In the end, it came down to Mark Bowtell and me at the second doubles court, but we were unable to bring it home for the Tigers losing 9-7 in a close affair.  The singles started off differently for all the courts. Fist (Sebastian Carlsson) was able to get off the court first by winning in straight sets, proving too strong for his opponent.  Neal (Skupski), Turbs (James Turbervill), and Bowie (Mark Bowtell) fought hard, but all lost in two tight sets. After the match was clinched, Jules (Julien Gauthier) broke down his opponent by forcing him to retire early in the third. Again, we were very competitive with another good effort, but we needed to have the belief we could do it and fire ourselves up for Sunday’s match against Vanderbilt.

The match against Vanderbilt would be one of our most important matches of the season at this stage. They were ranked 31st in the nation. Neal and Fist continued their great form in doubles after winning convincingly on court No.1; however, we were lackluster in the other doubles, and allowed Vanderbilt to take the point. The singles was a real dogfight on all courts. On a high note, Louisiana’s own Cody Loup was able to defeat Charlie Jones, another Louisianan, in straight sets evening out the score at 1-1. Neal and Jules gave their best effort but came up just short. Bowie kept his good form winning in a fiery and contested match in the third.  In the end, it came down to Fist and me for LSU to win the match.  Fist showed great composure to outlast his opponent in a tight third set, so it came down to my court. At the time, I was 4-0 down, but I was able to claw back to 4-2.  Although I was fighting back, I was unable to recover from the deficit. The loss was one of those losses that make you feel like crap, but the show must go on. South Florida was due in town in a couple of days. 

The South Florida match was our last home match at the Dub for the year, and we all wanted to leave the fans on a good note. It is always hard to play after two consecutive matches and our bodies were feeling the effects from the previous matches. Against South Florida, we got off to a great start in the doubles with Neal and Fist continuing to dominate at No. 1 doubles, and Jules and Bowie getting a lead in third doubles.  We were pretty pumped to get the doubles point, and in the end, it was the deciding factor of the match. Bowie was off the court first, smashing forehand winners and aces in his usual fashion; however, after this, there was a slight change in momentum with Neal and I losing our singles. At this point, it came down to the most experienced guys on the team- Jules, Seb and Cody, and it was  getting down to the wire.  Seb won his in a nail-biter third set, but, Cody was unable to get his match. It all came down to Julien’s court, and he showed great composure under pressure as he managed to clinch the match for LSU. The Canadian beast won 7-5 in the third and by doing that, kept our chances alive for the NCAA Tournament. It was a fantastic feeling coming into the locker room for the last time this year with a win.

We have had our fair share of disappointment and setbacks this year, but it was great to finish off on a high note. It has been an intense series of matches but we look forward to facing Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday.

Mon., April 19, 2010
This Saturday, we faced No. 62 Arkansas team in Fayetteville, Ark. This is our final match of the season before the SEC Tournament. Riding off a good win against South Florida, we were hoping to continue the momentum in this match.

Well, the drive over was a 12-hour grind on the sleeper bus. The bus driver told us that the last people to use the bus were the band Saliva. To kill some time, Cody and I had a controversial game of spades against Fist and Coach Bryan who are proving to be the dominate team in spades. They are currently undefeated so far.  We managed to get the long drive over and were eager to face those Hogs! Because of rain in Fayetteville, we had to play at the new Arkansas indoor facility. In the match, we started off slowly in the doubles but were able to fight back on courts two and three to make the match very close. Our lackluster start inevitably allowed Arkansas the early lead with the doubles point. We did not start off the singles in the best way possible; we lost four of six first sets. Although, I managed to sizzle past my opponent in straight sets to even out the scores. The experience and determination of Jules and Sebastian proved too strong, and they were able to fight their way back from a set deficit. In the end, it came down to Cody and Neal to bring home the bacon for LSU. Cody showed that fighting Tiger spirit, coming back from a set and 4-1 double break, to edge his opponent out in the third, clinching it for LSU. After the clinch, Skup (Neal Skupski) had an impressive victory edging out his opponent 7-6 in the third. Overall, it was a very satisfying win just being able to be able to fight through the adverse situations.

It was a relatively enjoyable bus ride back besides arriving around 4a.m. Sunday morning, but it was well worth it. It was also Jules 21st birthday Sunday, so I think this will be a trip he will remember. The Arkansas match was our last of the regular season, and now, we look to improve and face whatever challenges come in the SEC Tournament.
 

LSU men’s tennis freshman Stefan Szacinski made his third Southeastern Conference road trip this past weekend. Read his thoughts on the trip in the first edition of the player blog:

“While many college students are at the beach partying for Spring Break, the LSU men’s tennis team traveled to face Alabama and Auburn. We knew this was going to be a tough weekend, but we were confident that we could have a successful weekend in Alabama.

We first faced a tough Alabama unit ranked 33rd in the country. After a long bus ride to Tuscaloosa, we received a few honks and gestures from some of the locals. We were all pretty pumped to face the Crimson Tide, but we started off slow in the doubles to say the least. However, we all came out firing in the singles, having courts 1,2,3,4 and 6 winning their first sets. After success in the first sets, we had a real battle on our hands. Sebastian, aka the “Fist,” was first off the court winning in straight sets showing that Swedish poise. Bowie (Mark Bowtell), who has taken the responsibility of the number two position recently, rallied hard to win 6-3 in the third. At this point there were three live matches still playing on the courts. Cody, Neal, and I each had a dogfight on our hands. Cody and Neal fought their hearts out but were unable to come through in the end. I was the last match to come off, as my opponent retired with cramp problems early in the third. In the end, it was a tough loss, but we needed to bounce back for Auburn on Sunday.

The next day we were back on the LSU bus heading to face our next SEC opponent, the Auburn Tigers. We stayed at the Hilton hotel after getting some practice time on the Auburn courts. Before the match we decided to “Release the Demons,” where I happened to be the one pushed around “washing machined” in the center. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, we basically get into a circle and yell and sway with each other before the match to fire ourselves up for the doubles. When I jumped into the middle, I accidently elbowed Jules (Julien Gauthier) on the lip. But I don’t think this affected him because he played some amazing tennis in the doubles. With our high intensity we managed to clinch the doubles point and get ourselves off to a good start. It was a warm, humid day and all the players were affected by the heat. This made the singles a tough battle, and we got off to a slow start in all of the matches. Neal showed great determination to push his match to a third set but ended up just a little short of the victory. We showed some resiliency when Bowie came back from a 5-2 deficit in the second set to tie it up at 6-6 and almost push his opponent into a third set. Turbs (James Turbervill) was the last off the court and the only LSU victory in singles, pulling out a tough three set battle.

It’s always hard to come back from a demanding road trip, but on the way back to Baton Rouge, we had some fun playing cards on the bus. Coach Bryan and Fist took down Turbs and I in an intense game of spades. Overall, it was not one of our most successful road trips, but we will learn from the past and bounce back for Kentucky and Vanderbilt at the Dub. Hope y’all can make it out!

Thanks and GEAUX TIGERS!

Stefan

 

Before continuing our streak to the SEC Tournament, Neal, Mark, John, Dave and I were involved in community work with AgMagic where we guided first grade classes through a series of animal and plant exhibitions. I was very cautious dealing with the crawfish because they are pretty agile and those claws can get you if you’re not careful! We were also able to get close and personal with some of the kids and the animals too. Bowie (Mark Bowtell) got the opportunity to hold one of the calves; however, he didn’t seem too comfortable as it looked like he was choking the poor thing.

Anyway, coming off an impressive win against Arkansas on the road, we were psyched for the SEC Tournament on Thursday. We were facing the same Alabama team that we had a tight loss to last time at their place, 4-3. This match would be very important as a win would help our chances greatly of making the NCAA Tournament.

Well, we left for Lexington, Ky. on Wednesday morning and had a solid session on the Kentucky facility to get accustomed to the courts.  We stayed at the Crowne Plaza and had a massive dinner at an Italian restaurant our first night in Lexington, which most of us couldn’t finish. The place was incredible because somehow they managed to turn this old church into restaurant, but we stayed focused on the Alabama match.  We knew that it was going to be a battle for every point against Alabama, but with our good run of matches, we were confident we could end up with the victory. The doubles point was evenly contested. Jules (Julien Gauthier) and Bowie (Mark Bowtell) lost at No. 3 doubles, but Roger and I were next off the court with a 8-5 victory at No. 2, and it came down to Fist (Sebastian Carlson) and Neal at the No. 1 spot.  They were able to overcome their opponents in a tiebreaker by winning 9-8, and in the end, the doubles point would be a crucial factor in the match. It was very interesting because the singles started off differently on various courts. Cody and Jules were unable to overcome their opponents, but I was able to blast past my opponent in straight sets. Bowie was able to come back from a 3-1 deficit on court two to emerge victorious 6-3 in the third set, and that meant it all went down to Neal and Sebastian for a win. Fist was yet again unbelievable coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the tiebreaker to clinch and bring it home for the tigers. His clutchness in adverse situations is something to be admired for, and it’s the fourth-straight time he has won in the third set. This was a massive win for us because it most likely advanced us into the NCAA draw. For our next match, we had to play second-ranked Tennessee team.

Well, we had a great run, but we knew facing this Tennessee team would be a tough task for our relatively young team. The doubles point was taken by Tennessee, but in the singles, it was a real battle. On every court, each of us gave a good honest fight. We were able to get in some handy early leads with Neal getting up 3-0 in the first set and Fist, Jules and Cody showing promising signs. Even though we jumped out early, we were unable to capitalize on all courts. Unfortunately, Jules, Neal, and I couldn’t hang in there, and I wound up losing in straight sets. Even though we lost 4-0, we fought really hard on all courts showing that Tiger spirit. All in all, it has been a successful past couple weeks and we are doing what we can to give ourselves the best shot to make the NCAA Tournament.