Boise State

Boise State’s short-handed men’s tennis team rises up for NCAA berth

Coach Greg Patton loves his movie analogies, and he isn’t lacking for any when he thinks of this year’s team.

His Broncos have just seven players on the roster, at least three fewer than Patton feels is a solid number and almost half of what he’s carried in past seasons. Yet, Boise State persevered, and now opens the NCAA Tournament on Friday against No. 18 South Florida in Blacksburg, Va.

“They’re the Magnificent Seven,” Patton said. “Like in 300, we’re outnumbered big-time at the Battle of Thermopylae, but we keep fighting. There’s no room for error.”

With six singles positions availble for every match, it often has created competition to get on the court, but that hasn’t been the case in 2014-15. Sophomore Brendan McClain left the team for personal reasons in October, and freshman signee Kyle Butters was unable to join the team this season.

Patton said the smaller roster enabled a tighter bond to form, while allowing more hands-on coaching. Garrett Patton (Boise High), the lone senior, also said it has improved practices.

“There are definitely some positives with the negatives — it’s really hard to hide your weaknesses, because going against the same guys, they’ll exploit them, so it makes you have to fix them,” Garrett Patton said.

At 6-13 heading into April, the Broncos have rattled off nine wins in their past 11 duals, taking the Mountain West Tournament championship as the No. 5 seed.

In addition to Garrett Patton, the Broncos have three juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen, impressing their coach with their youthful resilience along the way.

“I don’t think I’ve seen so many guys get knocked down, go through so much and get right back up,” Greg Patton said.

The Broncos are making their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 seasons, and seeking their first win since 2009. Though Boise State lost to South Florida 4-0 in February, the bounce-back Broncos are 3-0 in rematches this season.

“Normally, Boise State isn’t the underdog, so it’s fun to play that role, come out of nowhere and surprise teams,” Garrett Patton said. “I’d love to upset South Florida, show everyone we’re a force to be reckoned with.”