Men’s and women’s tennis teams enter new era with fresh leadership
Sabrina Pardo / STUDENT PUBLICATIONS
Sophomore Jamie Wong will be a young leader for the team, looking to improve on her 17-3 record of last season.
The beginning of fall usually signifies Saturday afternoons of great college football especially here at the Flats where the likes of Joe Hamilton, Shawn Jones, and Donnie Davis have graced Techwood Drive. But it also means the start of tennis season which will again this year be headed by men’s coach Kevin Thorn and women’s coach Brian Shelton. Judging by the work put in over the summer and in the the first weeks of school, there is no doubt the players will be standing tall when spring rolls around.
First, the women’s team headed by Shelton who is in his second year at the reins. He shook things up immediately by leading Tech to the second round of the NCAA tourney upsetting number 25 Washington before falling to number nine UCLA. Shelton himself was a standout player while here at Tech earning All-ACC honors all four years. He also had several victories on the ATP tour including ones over Andre Agassi and Todd Martin.
Shelton had this to say about guiding the team. " I am stressing to the players to keep their thoughts on the game for the whole match. That is not always easy to do. I am really trying to get them to develop their game and develop a style of their own. Once they get that style set, I am stressing to them to play within that game and don’t try to go away from it. That means emphasizing their strengths and eliminating any weaknesses.”
Having their coach “define” a game and style they have been successful with all their life requires the players trusting the Coach. But that is what happens at the Division I level where stuff a player may have gotten away with against less competition gets exposed quickly in something such as an ACC match.
Shelton also had this to day in the realm of constructive criticism for the team, “Everybody out here has something to work on, else they would be out on tour.” When asked if these players are not on tour yet by age 20, can they really make the tour, Shelton had this to say, " I think it is a myth that you have to turn pro by 14 or 15. College tennis can be a stepping stone to the pro ranks. It all depends on do you have the motivation to take your game to that other level.”
Shelton definitely brings experience from his own days at GT. " I had one of the best times of my life here at Tech. I push the tennis, the players get the academics on their own, and then I try to create an environment where the player can grow as a tennis player and as a person.”
The players themselves have excellent ability and are led by senior Bobbi Guthrie. The 5-7 Raleigh, NC native racked up a 12-8 singles record last year. Also bringing the fire will be sophomore Jaime Wong. Wong had an excellent freshman year finishing 17-3. Laura Ozolins finished 15-5. Other players include Mason Miller, Sabrino Pardo, Charlotte Pernett, Lea Miller, Kristen Robertson, and Mysti Morris. The team is already doing well as Koon won the Flight C Championship in the Georgia Tech Invitational last weekend over teammate Ozolins.
Roberson won the Flight B crown. Wong and Roberson won the Flight C championship together also. Unfortunately, Wong lost in the semifinals of the individual tourney to the number one seed. Still, it was a nice showing.
The men’s team is headed by Coach Kevin Thorn who is in his third year at Tech. He earned ACC Coach of the Year honors his rookie season and has made a lot of steps towards taking the team back to where it was when he was a player. Thorne played at the same time as Shelton where both teamed up to lead Tech to ranking of number twelve nationally.
Only recently has Tech begun to make strides back towards that level again. He had this to say. “Right now we are trying to get the freshman ready. We could have sent them to the National Clay Court Championships but why do it. That is the only tourney we play all year on clay. The rest are on hardcourt. Fall is nothing but preparation for the spring in my eyes. We have done a ton of conditioning pushing the players to a level they have never seen, getting them out of their comfort zone. As a player, you need that. Only recently have they gotten to a point where they can come to practice without being sore from weights as we really broke their bodies down, and they are just beginning to build back up. We also have stressed footwork, keeping the footwork consistent throughout a three hour match. That takes conditioning. If your footwork gets bad i.e. take three small steps towards hitting a ball instead of one or two big strides then you have to compensate with your arms and that leads to bad shots.”
It sounds like Thorn could step right in now and win a few matches. Instead, he will have players like Sergio Aguirre and Romain Coirault help lead him into the first tourney of the year at the Clemson Fall Classic held September 29. Coirault finished 10-9 last year while Aguirre checked in at 7-14. Roger Anderson figures to improve upon his 15-5 dual match play which garnered him ACC Rookie of the Year honors. Anderson, of South Africa, was 24-8 overall. Rounding out the squad will be Fabio Campos, Jason Jeong, and David Wright.
Check out Tech’s men’s squad at the Bill Moore Tennis Center October 13-16 at in the Georgia Tech Fall Invitational. This is high level tennis for zero dollars. The women’s team next plays at home October 20-22 in the Yellow Jacket Invitational. Admission is free, with the student ID.