ANDERSON, S.C. – After a successful 2013 season that saw both teams advance to their respective South Atlantic Conference semifinals with the women’s team advancing to the SAC championship, Anderson University men’s and women’s tennis looks to advance even further in 2014 with hopes of conference championships on the horizon.
The 2013 campaign was headlined by the men’s program which shared the regular season championship with Tusculum as the teams sat atop the league standings with matching 8-1 conference records. Earning the top seed in last season’s conference tournament, the Trojans were upset in the conference semifinals by eventual champion, Lincoln Memorial, 5-3, ending their season. Anderson closed the year with a 10-6 overall record, marking the 15th straight season the men’s team has posted double digit wins.
The men’s team will have plenty of new faces on the squad this season, as AU graduated four seniors from a season ago, including No. 1 doubles player Jerome Branker and No. 4 singles player Loic Ambroise. This season, head coach Joey Eskridge will look to mix his experienced players with a talented freshmen bunch.
“Our conference is very strong on the men’s side,” Anderson head coach Joey Eskridge said. “I think we can finish in the top three in the league and push for another conference championship.”
Anderson currently carries the Southeast Region’s No. 4 ranked doubles tandem in freshmen Juan Carracedo and Mateo Rivas. The duo posted three victories at the ITA Southeast Regional during the fall season, highlighted by a win over second-seeded Adam Jonsson and Vincent Verpaux of Lander.
“Juan and Mateo are a strong doubles team, but they may not be together in the spring,” Eskridge said. “We may switch things around at No. 1 doubles, but that is a strength we haven’t had here since 2009. I feel good about the guys that we have. We’re young, but I think we’ll get a lot out of our players this year.”
In singles, the Trojans return two players who have collegiate singles experience as sophomore Paul Michael Calhoun played at the No. 5 position, while classmate Inaki Iriberry was at the No. 6 spot for the majority of the season. Calhoun and Iriberry combined for 20 wins last season, as Iriberry posted eight wins in doubles along with then-senior Daniel Gonzalez.
Also returning for the Trojans is senior Danillo Faria who saw action in just one singles match a season ago that went unfinished. Faria also teamed up with Gonzalez in doubles and tallied three wins. Faria is joined by sophomore Ryan Howard to round out the 2013 roster.
On the women’s side, the Trojans look to build on a 13-6 overall record from last season and a 7-2 mark in league play, which earned them the No. 3 seed in the SAC Tournament. Following a win over Tusculum in the semifinals, Anderson was unable to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, falling to Wingate 5-3 in the conference championship. The loss was the third straight to Wingate in the conference tournament, as AU advanced to the championship match for the first time since joining the league in 2010.
“I believe our women’s team will be in the mix for the conference championship once again this season,” Eskridge said. “We have an as good, if not better, team than we had last year and I feel we stack up well with what the other teams in the conference have lost and returned.”
Entering this season, Anderson returns a majority of its roster, including All-SAC Second Team honorees Avery Owens (singles & doubles) and Karen Ching (doubles). Owens, who is the lone senior on the roster this season, tallied 15 singles victories a year ago playing the majority of the campaign at the No. 1 spot. Teaming up with Ching at No. 1 doubles, the tandem posted 11 victories, including seven straight after being paired up together a third of the way through the year.
Ching, who started at No. 2, added 10 wins in 2013 including an essential straight set win over Tusculum’s Taylor Patterson to send Anderson to the final round of the SAC Tournament.
Also back for Anderson is junior Lindsay Gregory and who combined for 14 singles wins at No. 5 and 11 doubles victories. Gregory will likely move up the lineup and have an expanded role for the upcoming season.
Sophomores Alexandra Ebner, Kayla Bishop and Lauren Howard also return to the roster and Ebner headlines the group posting four singles victories and nine doubles wins in 2013.
With two newcomers to the squad this year, Eskridge is excited for the potential of this season’s team. Transfer Nikkola Wichenko played last season at Cal State Los Angeles where she helped the Golden Eagles to a 9-9 record. Also joining the team this season is freshman Rebecca Bruning, who played No. 1 at North Oconee High School in Georgia for her final three seasons.
“We’re hoping for Avery to continue to lead us this season,” Eskridge said. “We’re looking strong with our projected lineup.”
“Our goal is for both teams to return to the regional rankings this season and maintain that for the rest of the year,” Eskridge said. “I’m excited for the season to begin.”
Anderson’s men’s team begins the season with a trip to Division I power Clemson on Feb. 2, as the women’s team opens the season with a SAC matchup with Newberry on Feb. 8 at the Max Grubbs Memorial Courts.