Texas A&M's men's tennis team will shoot for the SEC Tournament title this weekend in Nashville.
Action takes place Friday through Sunday at Vanderbilt's Currey Tennis Center. Click here for more.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Junior Ore, men's tennis' lone senior,
looks to lead the Aggies to SEC Tourney title and beyond
by Austin Cuny '15
12th Man Productions
There is a sense of intensity and focus around the Texas A&M men’s tennis team this week, as players and coaches alike are getting tuned in for the weekend ahead.
The 11th-ranked Aggies are preparing for the 2014 SEC Tournament in Nashville and, to the lone senior of the team, this will be a final chance to win his team something he’s always wanted--an SEC championship.
At first glance, Israel Alexander Ore--or “Junior” as he has come to go by--has a quiet but confident demeanor, and looks like your everyday, average college student. However, his tennis prowess and past success on the court is anything but average, and it has built him into one of the premiere players in the SEC.
Hailing from Gaithersburg, Md., Ore has had a racket in his hand for almost his entire life.
"I’ve been playing tennis since I was 4 years old,” Ore said. “My grandfather was actually the one who started me out.”
Ore’s tennis skills and athleticism were realized early on, which eventually led to opportunities for him to compete internationally. He participated in the juniors at Wimbledon, the U.S Open and the French Open, where he defeated the No. 1 seed in the world. He finished high school as the No. 4-rated junior in the United States, and offers from universities all over the country began to pour in for the highly-touted prospect.
At first Florida, Miami, and Georgia emerged as favorites for the young star, but his coaches wanted him to check out A&M before he made up his mind.
“My coaches that I had at the time were like, ‘you have to go check out A&M’,” Ore recalls. “At the time A&M wasn’t really in the picture and I was about to commit to Florida. But I looked at the coaches on the roster and met Bob (McKinley) and Steve (Denton), and saw the players that they had already and was really impressed, so I figured I’d give it a shot.”
Since then he has emerged as one of the top players for the Aggies, becoming an All-American in doubles in his junior year and advancing his team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
For him the NCAA second-round match last spring against Texas in particular stands out in his mind, and helps him to stay motivated.
“When I defeated Lloyd Glasspool in the last match of the night and clinched our victory against the Longhorns to make it into the Sweet 16…that was easily the high point of my career at A&M,” remembers Ore.
With so much success, it would be easy for the senior to be the cocky, loudmouth leader of his team. But he finds that leading by example and conveying an air of modesty and a “team over self” attitude works just fine for him.
“Honestly, I’m not a very vocal person. I just kind of do my thing and play the way I play and try to lead by example. The biggest thing I try to do for my team is win every match I play, and contribute in any way I can.”
As far as the SEC tournament is concerned, he and his teammates are just taking it one step at a time, but he is certainly optimistic about his team’s abilities.
“I feel like we’re really confident going in. I think we’re one of the top teams that could win it, but we're not thinking of it that way. We’re just taking the tournament match by match and that each team is just one more team standing in our way of the championship.
“But we’re all pretty excited about the possibility of achieving that goal, because it’s what all of us have wanted since we first came here.”
Ore is confident that he and his teammates can go the distance--however he believes in the process and is trying to not think too far ahead.
“I’m confident we can go really far, even as far as winning the National Championship. But our coaches don’t let us think that far ahead. We just take it day by day so we can stay hungry.”
For now at least, Junior Ore will look to lead his team into Nashville with both poise and humility, hoping to return to College Station with some momentum and possibly, an SEC Championship.