"Our style matches their style," Winthrop tennis coach Cid Carvalho said of his next opponent. "We've played teams throughout the season on their level."
Yes, but none at this time of the year.
The Lady Eagles take on Clemson today in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Winthrop's sixth postseason bid in the last seven years. The Eagles have never won an NCAA match (or even scored), and they'll be playing a team that's won 10 straight matches and the ACC championship.
Yet they feel they've got a better chance this time. One, Clemson's close enough so Winthrop's fans can make the trip.
Two, the Lady Tigers were 5-9 before their winning streak, so it's always possible Winthrop (13-11) can catch them on the downslide.
"They have a lot of South Americans on their squad, too," senior Larisa Bekmetova said. "We expect an equal game."
After winning the Big South Conference championship on April 19, the Lady Eagles prepped for exams and practiced for a yet-to-be-determined opponent. They found out it was Clemson on April 29 and practiced a little harder.
Carvalho and his players said there was no special kind of game they were preparing to play, just the one that got them to this point. There would be no point in trying to learn a different style for one match, when a win might produce another match against another strange team.
"We know what to expect," Carvalho said. "We see that level all the time."
"They're really, really good and can play without fear," freshman Sara Abutovic said. "But so can we."