By Eric Sisson, Chattanooga, Tenn., — 

jones photo
Photo by Kelsey Aslinger: Junior Kayla Jones, Memphis, is one of the team’s upperclassmen with a strong season.

One major component of the UTC women’s tennis teams success this season, especially the latter part of the season, is junior Kayla Jones, Memphis, Tenn., who just earned SoCon Player of the Week.

“It was great,” Jones said of winning the award. “I haven’t had that honor yet. It felt good.”

In her first two seasons as a Moc, Jones feels she wasn’t a big enough part of the team heading into the final stretch of the season. However, after a slow start this year, Jones feels she is peaking at the right time of the season.

“I usually always start out the season hot,” Jones said. “By the time we get to the big matches, I wasn’t always winning. This year, I made it my goal to help with the big conference wins.”

Not only is Jones playing at her best late in the season, she also believes the entire team is too, which is something head coach Jeff Clark has stressed throughout the year.

“I really do,” Jones said when asked if the team is playing their best tennis now. “Especially after the ETSU match. I felt like we were there. Our conditioning was there, and we were able to outlast people.”

Jones, as a junior, is a part of an experienced group of upperclassmen on the Mocs’ squad. This group, comprised of two seniors and three juniors make up five of the six starters for the Mocs. Jones thinks this experience in the starting lineup has been a big part of the team’s success.

“I think it is because we have so much experience,” Jones said. “We have all been in these places.”

This core group of upperclassmen has been through two straight 18-win seasons, but came up just shy of a conference championship after losing a few very close matches. Due to this experience, Jones had high expectations for her and her team coming into this season and fully expects her team to win the conference.

“I expected it,” Jones said of the great season. “I knew that after a while we would get it. Mentally, we know we can do it. We really are the best team in the conference.”

With two conference matches remaining before the conference tournament, Jones and the Mocs look to make that final push to earn that coveted SoCon Championship.

“We need to close out games earlier and not have people hanging around,” Jones said. “That is how things get kind of messy, but other than that I think we got it. I am really confident about Mercer and Samford.”