Written by Briana Salem, Staff Writer
VSU Tennis will be looking to experience for the 2017 season. The men’s team lost only four players to graduation. One of which, Niklas Herbing, will return as an assistant. The women’s team lost none.
Head Coach John Hansen will look for last year’s Gulf South Conference Player of the Year, Leo Blay to lead the charge for VSU this season.
“We don’t have captains on the team because your better players are going to be the ones everyone wants to follow,” Hansen said. “Leo Blay is ranked third in the nation, so the rest of the guys know how good they have to be to at least be third in the nation just by looking up to Leo.”
The men’s team finished third in the GSC last season after going 12-6 in the regular season. They then played in the NCAA National Tournament, where they lost in the quarter finals to Hawaii Pacific.
In September, Blay and some of his teammates played in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association South Regional in Lakeland, Florida. Blay was the Blazers’ high finisher, as he lost in the final round of the tournament.
Hansen said the teams are a little rusty since last playing competitively last fall. Both the men and women played practice rounds against Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College on Monday. He said younger players will be more prepared for the season after gaining experience this preseason and last year.
“Our sophomores this season have great experience from last season,” Hansen said. “Jorid Mas, who was scared to death last year, is playing some great tennis right now. Also, Xavier Pineda has always been the quickest guy on the team, but now his game is maturing.”
The women’s team’s season ended last year after falling to West Florida in the final match of the GSC Championship. They will return every player including Bea Morales-Hernandez, who was first team all-GSC last year and second teamers Sabrina Schmidt and Laura Ubeda.
Hansen said the team was disappointed after narrowly missing out on a chance to play in the NCAA Regional Championship last season.
“Last season, whoever won the conference was the team that moved on,” Hansen said. “Sometimes when both teams are ranked high enough then they both could move on, but we came up short to The University of West Florida.”
The team will look to bounce back from last year’s showing in the GSC Championship, so they can join the men’s team at the next level. Herbing said one challenge the teams will face as they have every season is the grueling length of their schedules.
“Tennis is a very physical and demanding sport,” Herbing said. “We could have up to two to three games a day. It looks like a fancy sport but it is physically a grind.”
Both teams’ first match of the season will be in Boca Raton, Florida, against Lynn University on Feb. 5.