Ball State sophomore Patrick Elliott has gained momentum in recent weeks as he looks to build on a successful freshman campaign.
Elliott, a Jeffersonville graduate, along with his doubles partner Cliff Morrison, recently advanced to the final round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Summer Circuit National Championships, held on the campus of Indiana University.
The Ball State duo defeated No. 2 seed TCU, No. 3 seed Texas A&M and No. 5 seed Indiana, before losing in the title match. With the performance, Elliott and Morrison have qualified for the ITA All-American qualifying tournament in Oklahoma in October.
“This was a great performance by Cliff and Patrick,” Ball State head men’s tennis coach Bill Richards said on the school’s website. “They beat some outstanding players from outstanding programs to make it to the finals.”
Elliott went 25-11 as a freshman with a 17-7 record in dual matches. He played primarily at the No. 6 singles position, while also earning time at the No. 4 and No. 5 slots.
The News and Tribune recently caught up with Elliott to discuss his tennis career at Ball State.
QUESTION: What did you take away the most from your freshman season at Ball State?
ELLIOTT: “I came in to Ball State knowing they only lost a couple of players and had a really good team, so I wasn’t expecting to get a lot of playing time. In the first couple of matches, the coach gave me the opportunity to prove myself and had the chance, and I was pretty successful. From there on out, I had a pretty successful season based on my own expectations.”
Q: Is it safe to say you exceeded your expectations for last season?
ELLIOTT: “I expected to be competing for the No. 6 singles spot, which is where my expectations stopped. I actually solidified myself as the No. 6 player and was even playing at No. 4 and No. 5 at the end of the season.”
Q: In your first collegiate match, you defeated a player from Marquette, 7-5, 6-2 during the fall season. What do you remember about that match?
ELLIOTT: “I remember seeing the name on the shirt saying Marquette and thinking it was a big deal. It kind of overwhelmed me at first, but I kind of calmed down. Once I got that first win it was a pretty confidence boost.”
Q; Where do you see yourself fitting into the lineup this season?
ELLIOTT: “This year, I see myself probably around the No. 4 and No. 5 spot. We lost one guy above me, but we have a redshirt senior back who will be good, too. I think I’ll be at No. 2 doubles.”
Q: What is the team capable of accomplishing this season?
ELLIOTT: “We’re capable of winning the [Mid-American Conference] tournament. We were kind of expected to do so last year, but some injuries hurt us. We have a pretty solid foundation, some good senior leaders and our team is really deep. We have a chance to have another successful year.”
Q: How do you describe your style of play as a singles player?
ELLIOTT: “I’m what is known as a grinder. Before I got to college, I wasn’t. But once you get to this level, everyone can hang with you and hit the ball, so you have to outlast them.”
Q: What ways have you worked to improve your game this offseason?
ELLIOTT: “Right now, my coach has me working on developing a bigger first serve to get more free points. I’m also looking to move forward more and finish off points at the net.”
Q: Does it take adjustment or a different mindset to not playing the No. 1 position, like you did in high school?
ELLIOTT: “It’s a different feeling. But at the end of the day, every position brings one point.”
Q: What was the biggest adjustment from playing high school to NCAA Division I tennis?
ELLIOTT: “The most difficult adjustment was knowing every match you were going to have to play your hardest and play your best. In high school, you would have a match every now and then that you knew you could get by with maybe being lazy. But in college, you have to bring your best stuff every day.”
Q: What matches do you have circled on your calendar?
ELLIOTT: “Being a smaller school, we definitely look forward to playing the Big Ten teams on our schedule. I think we have six or seven this year. We always try to bring our best stuff and make sure the bigger schools respect us.”
Q: What goals or aspirations do you have for your career at Ball State?
ELLIOTT: “I would eventually like to make my way toward the top of the lineup. As for the team aspect, I’d like to land a couple of MAC championships and get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.”
Q: Do you see anything in the game of players at the top of the lineup that you need to add to your own game?
ELLIOTT: “There’s really not much difference from top to bottom. But the main thing is they just don’t lose focus at all during a match. They don’t give any free points away and execute on the big points.”