In the midst of a season, milestones and accolades get pushed to the side in the wake of constant preparation and competing.
Such is the case for the Lady Vols tennis team and head coach Mike Patrick, who celebrated his 500th career win on Sunday with a 7-0 win over Chattanooga.
"I've enjoyed it. It's been a real good run, here at Tennessee especially," Patrick said. "We've had great support, and we've had great players, and they just come with time."
Patrick is the 10th tennis coach in Division I history to reach the 500-win landmark. With previous head coaching stops at Kentucky and Arkansas, he has a distinct awareness of the toughness and competitive drive in the SEC.
"Up and down, we've got a lot of good coaches, and the quality of the players, the work ethic that we have in our conference – it's a tough conference," Patrick said. "It's not just all fun and games. We really take it seriously and work really hard and compete hard, on all levels. So it's intense."
The Lady Vols took on both Belmont and Chattanooga Sunday, sweeping both teams. In doubles play, Brittany Lindl and Ambika Pande won, 8-6, giving Tennessee a one-point lead before heading into singles.
"We want to keep improving on a daily basis, learn from past weekends, and see what we can do to keep getting better," Lindl said.
Lindl also said the team viewed the doubleheader as good preparation in stamina and focus for upcoming road matches. Sophomore Tiffany Tavares, who won 6-2 Sunday, regarded the past weekend as a positive benchmark.
"I think it just gets us off to a good start, to have a couple of wins this weekend. The matches are going to start picking up, so it's good to have that momentum behind us," Tavares said, "Our main goal this year is just to go out there with a strong heart. Even though we're young, we're just going to go after it and keep getting better. And if it works out for us, then great, but if it doesn't, we're just going to keep working."
With so many young players (the team consists of six freshman, one sophomore, two juniors and a senior), much of the focus is put on acting as one unit.
"When we work as a team on the court and we all help each other and cheer for each other, it makes a huge difference," said freshman Laurence Guevremont.
Guevremont added: "It's great when we're a big team, instead of being individuals, because it's harder to carry it all on your shoulders. So when you have the whole team together, it's much better, and the result will show."
The Lady Vols travel to Columbus, Ohio, on Friday for a match against Ohio State. Patrick has an understanding of the challenges that playing on the road brings, but said he anticipates a positive outcome, win or lose.
"It's harder. You know, it's a lot harder playing on the road, especially with a young team," Patrick said. "It's an experience that they're going to have to go through. This year is all about learning anyway, so it's a good learning experience."