January 30, 2014

UNG Men's & Women's Tennis Teams Look To Lean On Experience In 2014

DAHLONEGA, Georgia - (UNGAthletics.com) - The University of North Georgia men's and women's tennis teams are set to kick off the 2014 season on Saturday, February 1 with a non-conference challenge with Erskine College.  First serves are scheduled for 1:00 PM at the UNG Tennis Complex at Yahoola Creek Park.  Both teams are under the direction of head coach Kent Norsworthy who is entering his ninth year leading the school's tennis programs. 

The men's team will be looking to lean on leadership in the new campaign as Coach Norsworthy will have several upperclassmen at his disposal this season as the Nighthawks will once again face a rigorous Peach Belt Conference schedule after losing the services of Felipe Friedrich, an ITA All-American selection as a senior last season.

UNG will most likely be leaning on the lone senior Giovani Santos for leadership. In addition, juniors Mateus Camasmie, Sam Gantt, Matheus Guida, and Mario Mesquita will also play a big role in filling out the rest of the lineup. Due to all the returning upperclassman, Norsworthy will only have a couple spots to fill in his lineup, which is certainly a good problem to have.  Guida, a PBC All-Conference selection in 2013, was voted as a 2014 Preseason All-Conference selection.

Guida and Camasmie are ranked #15 nationally in doubles to begin the 2014 season.  In addition to the national ranking with Camasmie, Guida entered the initial Southeast region singles rankings at 11th.   In the doubles rankings, Guida/Camasmie are ranked 6th in the Southeast region.

"On the men's side, we had two players out the entire spring so it really affected our top six," said Norsworthy. "When you take two guys out, your depth kind of goes away. So now we have everybody back, our top four is made up of juniors and seniors so there's a lot of leadership at the top. We're playing with a couple freshman at 5 and 6, they seem to be fitting in and buying into the system but we'll see as a whole, how they compete in season. Leadership wise, we have a lot of good stuff coming back."

Last season's final record of 9-9 did not quite meet the level of expectations that have been set by past teams. Norsworthy does see some similarities between this year's squad and the 2012 team, which finished 14-9 until bowing out in the Southeast Regional. A similar result this season would certainly be a huge momentum boost for the program.

"For the men, we can get back to the caliber we were in 2012 – we topped out at 23 in the country and made the regional tournament," said Norsworthy. "I don't think there's any reason to believe we can't get back there, if not do a little bit better especially since we have a little more leadership on that side."

Norsworthy also coaches the UNG women's tennis team which is entering 2014 with some momentum following last season. The Nighthawks finished 10-11 despite the extremely tough schedule, finishing the year winning nine of their last twelve matches. Two of those losses were to ranked PBC foes Clayton State and Georgia College.

It will almost certainly be another difficult slate of games in conference for the Nighthawks but Norsworthy is hopeful that the momentum will give his squad something to build on.

"The women spent the first half of the season figuring out they were good. We beat some good teams; Lander, USC-Aiken both 5-4 and we almost beat Clayton, who was ranked, lost 5-4. Almost beat Flagler as well," said Norsworthy. "All of our women are back except one senior who we're replacing with another returning. So we should have a pretty good season if they feel they believe they are good."

Similar to the men's team, the women also have a number of returners that will look to carry the momentum. After losing only one player to graduation, UNG will turn to the lone senior Audrey Marlette in addition to juniors Natalia Escobar, Nela Handac, and Cameron Williams for leadership.

There's no doubt about where the bar is set heading into the season; a PBC tournament bid looks to be the big goal given past success, returning players, and leadership amongst the group.

"The women have a really good shot at making conference and being on that cusp of going to regionals," said Norsworthy. "We were just one win away from making conference last year so with everybody coming back, leadership wise, that should be a pretty easily accomplished goal for them."

For both the men and the women, the fall season was an opportunity to improve on skills and find confidence before the season starts. Norsworthy saw plenty of progression from both groups during the fall and he is hopeful that will help carry over some confidence into the new season.

"The fall season is an individual season so it's not team versus team, but we had some good stuff going on in the fall. Some players who needed confidence, got confidence and most of the players played up to their potential in the fall," said Norsworthy. "Rolling over into the spring, there's some positive energy coming back from that."

Written By: Chris Natsch, UNG Athletic Communications Student Assistant