This past weekend was the start of the Emory men’s tennis season. On Saturday, they faced Dalton State College (Ga.). On Sunday, they played against Georgia Gwinett College and Georgia State University.

This weekend was significant for all players, but more so for freshmen, as they played their first real matches of their college careers.

“As a freshman, it’s nerve racking,” explained Jay Jemison, a freshman on the team who has had to immediately handle a big starting role. “People [are] cheering for you and against you. It’s scary.”

Against Dalton State, Jemison and senior captain Rafe Mosetick were each able to win all of their singles matches. Combined with impressive efforts from junior Aman Manji in singles, as well as from Scott Rubinstein and James Spaulding in doubles, the Eagles came away with a 6-3 win.

Jemison talked to the Wheel about the difference between college matches and the leagues he had played in before.

“I used to just play people my age,” Jemison said. “Since I’m high in the lineup, I’m playing juniors and seniors — I’m playing guys who are 21 and 22, but I’m just 18. Everybody hits the ball harder. The only thing I [have] going for me is that my strokes are cleaner and I’m quicker. I have to use that to my advantage.”

Going into Sunday against very strong teams, Coach John Browning explained that his expectations were not to win, but to tune up. Browning obviously needed to use these initial matches to get a feel for all of his players, what spots they fit best in and what rotations are most effective.

Sunday presented some extremely tough sets for Emory. In addition to the high level of competition, several Eagles were sidelined with injuries on top of the wear and tear from the game the day before. Against Georgia Gwinnett, the number one ranked team in the NAIA, Emory fell 8-1.

Later that day, Jemison was able to continue his strong play in his return to action versus Georgia State — an NCAA Division 1 team — where he beat his opponent in singles. However, other than some late-game success by the doubles pair of David Omsky and Andrew Harrington, the Eagles failed to win any of the rest of their matchups in singles and doubles, losing 7-2 overall.

“We could’ve gotten blown out. The positive was that we competed,” Browning said after the match.

Jemison mentioned that his coach and his teammates really stress the importance of team unity, controlling each person’s ego and staying mentally strong.

“Whether you’re the last guy in the lineup or the first guy in the lineup, you have to treat everybody with respect,” he said. “You’re not by yourself anymore. When I was playing in the juniors, it was just me and my dad. I didn’t have a team rooting for me growing up. I really appreciate that now.”

Regardless of any setbacks, Jemison maintains that his team’s goal is to win a national championship.

The Eagles will look to improve as they travel to Cleveland, Ohio for the ITA National Indoor Championships on Friday, Feb. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 21.