Hey there tennis fans!
Three of the Lions competed in the Jack Kramer's tournament (Jessica, Laura and Kristine) with some of the top teams on the west coast including UCLA, USC, SMU, Pepperdine, LSU, Stanford, Ohio State, BU and others. Laura and Jess had a huge first round win in doubles but the singles matches were super tough as these players are some of the best in the country. Kristine won her first round against UCSB but lost her second round. I'm super proud of everyone for giving it their all though.
About that Southern fix, Yes, you heard right. ¾ of the LMU Women's Tennis team (Ellie, Julia, Lisa, Anna, Kylie, Andy, Audrey and myself) headed to the south, Tuscaloosa, Alabama to be exact for the Roberta Allison Fall Classic. This is the second year in a row that our team has been asked to attend this event along with tons of competitive teams from the south and the Midwest. The battles were certainly unlike any competition we have faced in the past or will face in our conference matches. These teams include, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgetown, Michigan, LSU, Georgia Tech, Depaul, as well as some feisty smaller private schools in the south that I had never heard before such as Troy, UAB, and Middle Tennessee University.
A lot of these schools have recruited some of the top players in the country so it was no doubt that we were going to battle against the big guns.
Just stepping onto Alabama soil for the first time, my first thoughts were obviously, "we are definitely not in California anymore." Eyes peered to our LMU gear in the airport and throughout the weekend as if we were celebrities, or aliens....one of the two. Of course, no one has really heard of LMU from the South. Several people actually asked if we were from a school in Louisiana, which had the same acronym.
The funny thing is, I would not really expect anyone to really have heard of our school out west anyway because even some California folk are not too familiar with our hidden gem in Los Angeles, LMU. As you can imagine, people's eyes lit up when we clarified our location. "Wow, you're from L.A....that's so cool!"
For those of you whom are not too knowledgeable about Tuscaloosa, the football team pretty much shapes the town. There is not too much to do in the town but Alabama natives are crazy about their football. Needless to say, football is, well, everything.
Coming from a school that doesn't even have a football team, well we did, way back when,...(side note, our coach actually played on the team) we were in for quite a culture shock. I personally was so excited to see what that pride was all about, oh and of course to meet all the friendly locals.
It was ironic that our tennis team was making this trip because I actually am currently interning for a local Sports PR firm in Manhattan Beach where two of my bosses went to Alabama. Naturally they are all about their football team and still travel back there from time to time to see games. When I told them I was making the trip, they were stoked and gave me a pre-warning that I was going to absolutely love it.
In addition, my sports journalism class has required that I religiously follow a college football team and blog about them three times a week so of course I chose the Crimson Tide.
Unfortunately for us, the Bama football team had a bye week and the students were on fall break, so not a whole lot of activity was taking place, but you can still feel the atmosphere and that warm sense of community.
Because we went during this fall time of year, we got to experience the beautiful autumn trees and the fresh, crisp air. The chill basically felt like winter for us in California. Oh man, we're spoiled.
Alright, besides taking in all that Alabama has to offer in this little weekend getaway, and believe me, we did, your Lady Lions did travel all this way on a mission. And that was to show these Midwest and southern schools that the LMU lions are on the prowl and would be fearless competitors on the tennis court.
Our tournament started on Friday morning, Halloween. No we didn't dress up if you were wondering. We kept it all business in uniform. We had to layer up big time to warm up though. Our big puffy ski-like jackets and sweatpants were a necessity right up until we played our beginning matches. 45 degree mornings are not exactly what we're used to back home.
Doubles matches started off the day both days, which were followed by two singles matches. All 8 of us played against opponents from all different schools, all of which were super solid and tough contenders. Sure we got a little discouraged with losses but we knew the quality of tennis that we were going to face and our games tend to rise when we face intense, perhaps more experienced opponents, ultimately forcing us to play our best tennis. We walked away from Day 1 with a firm grasp of the competition while knowing we had another day to play all out with absolutely nothing to lose.
After making it through all sorts of extreme weather from 70 and sunny to windy, dark horror movie-like dark clouds and pouring down rain, it was grub time. I suppose it completed the whole spooky Halloween look pretty perfectly.
We ate at a fun restaurant, which as you can imagine was decked out in all things repping Alabama football from souvenirs to autographed pictures to life-size poster board cut-outs of Coach Nick Saban. The customers and waiters were all dressed up in funky costumes too. It was great.
On top of that, we had an overly friendly waiter, Eric. I say 'overly' because of course we were expecting a friendly and personable waiter, but this guy, yikes. He felt a tad too comfortable with us. Dressed up in a full-on German Oktober Fest lederhosen outfit for his Halloween costume, he sat down at our table striking up a conversation. Nice, right? Cool he's comfortable with us. But then he kept coming back, over and over, thinking of any excuse possible to keep the conversation flowing. He was just full of stories.
It was a little overkill. He thought it would be an appropriate time to start one of his stories in the middle of our meal when we were enjoying a quality southern meal where we know we would not get anywhere else. Can't we eat in peace? One of my teammates, Audrey perfectly described our experience as a "dinner and a show." Eric did not fail at the entertainment part, that's for sure.
We were up and at 'em early the next day for round two of our tourney. So no, your Lions didn't spend the night out trick-or-treating around Tuscaloosa.
Saturday was drastically colder in temperature compared to the previous day. Like holy cow, it was close to unbearable. We're talking around 35 degrees in the morning and then it did not reach over 50 degrees, all day long. Not to mention the hailing winds that seemed to blow uncontrollably. Saying that the conditions were tough would be an understatement.
Yes, we were out of our comfort zones in terms of weather and perhaps people think we were a bunch of wusses but all teams seemed to be struggling to stay warm with the weather. I know myself and a lot of my teammates refused to take off our sweatshirts/jackets and sweatpants the entire time we were playing all of our matches just so that we would not freeze to death. And some of us had up to three matches...rough.
The matches basically came down to who could overcome the excruciating cold or at least become numb to the point that we could just play out to the best that we could. I am so proud that despite the obvious discomfort, none of us showed signs of calling it quits. We were fighters through and through.
Even though we did not end both days of the tournament with the results that we wanted, our coach was proud of how we gave it everything we had. Hey, we traveled all the way across the country to play, so we had to leave Bama on a good note.
Yes, we were a little disappointed, but Jamie reminded us that the results did not matter to him as much as long as we capitalized on things we did right in our matches as well as acknowledged the weak areas in our game so we know what to improve on when we return back home. Of course we all want to win, but sometimes you don't take away much from winning except for maybe the pure satisfaction of winning
The caliber of tennis was so high for this tournament so the expectation of winning did not make or break us by any means. I think the comfort and support we all had for each other as a team really helped ease some of the frustrations we had at times.
With so much time spent together in road trips like this,
it's a perfect opportunity to spend quality-bonding time together. And we
definitely grew a lot closer as a unit which could only help our overall
performances on the court.
For our final night in Tuscaloosa, we decided to go to a
restaurant that would so accurately encompass a traditional and authentic
southern meal. By popular demand from locals and my bosses at my internship who
attend Bama, we went to Dreamland BBQ.
It was amazing. It was a perfect little hole in the wall complete with TV screens everywhere (with football playing of course) and Alabama license plates hanging. They serve their food family style there. The waitress handed us all paper plates. It was almost like a big picnic. They brought over various plates of ribs, sausage (seriously the best sausage I have ever had hands down), baked beans, cole-slaw and potato salad. It was everything I pictured a southern BBQ meal to look like, except better.
In addition to their BBQ delicacy, Dreamland BBQ is also super popular for their banana pudding, so of course we had to give that a try. You don't see that too often back west. It was so unbelievably good. It's safe to say we feasted big time, but if we didn't, than we didn't really embrace the full southern experience and do Bama right.
While at dinner, the group sitting next to us noticed and recognized LMU, no not the LMU in Louisiana, but the Los Angeles one! Apparently all of them were from El Segundo, which we all know is located a town away from where LMU is located. So they all knew LMU and one of the guy's actually took classes at LMU this past summer. Ironic right? They are currently students at the University of Alabama and love it.
Since we had no matches on Sunday, we had most of the day to explore Tuscaloosa before we headed back to the west coast.
Jamie hooked us up with a private tour around the legendary football stadium. It was unreal to say the least.
We got to walk into the locker rooms and the boxes and inside the stadium itself. You can just feel how big football is to that school-so much pride.
It was a blast! We took a bunch of pictures for the memories and even snapped a shot with the mascot that we tracked down outside the stadium. It was an awesome experience and Jamie was so great to set that up for us.
That concluded our Bama trip and I know I am not alone in saying that the South did us well. We got to play some high quality tennis and fully absorb the southern way of life for a weekend. For some of us, we don't know when we would ever venture back there for another trip so we were so lucky to have gotten the experience to go and with great company to boot!
We're on the go once again next weekend! Some of the Lions will be playing in a tournament in San Diego. So let's keep that Lion spark alive and cheer them on!
That's all for now! GO LIONS!