Jan. 20, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. - The No. 23 Auburn men's tennis team opens up the 2010 spring season on Friday as the Tigers travel to Blacksburg, Va., for the three-day Hokie Challenge on the campus of Virginia Tech.
The nationally-ranked Tigers will face Virginia Tech, along with College of Charleston, Harvard and Indiana. The Hokies enter the season as the No. 27 team in the country, while Indiana sits at No. 48 and Harvard at No. 63.
"It's tough when you come into January and only have 10 days of practice before you are thrown into the fire," head coach Eric Shore said. "We are really looking forward to this weekend. We will be able to see where we are as a team and where our new kids are at."
A pair of ranked upperclassmen in junior Tim Puetz and sophomore Alex Stamchev will be looked to lead a squad that features seven freshmen.
Puetz enters his third year at Auburn as the 24th-ranked singles player in the country. He posted an 18-5 singles record at the No. 2 spot last season and earned a 2009 All-SEC Second-Team selection. Along with partner Alexey Tsyrenov, the pair reached the semifinals of the 2009 NCAA Doubles Tournament.
Stamchev is currently ranked No. 86 in singles according to the ITA poll. He finished his freshman campaign with a team-best 19-6 overall singles record and was placed on the 2009 All-SEC All-Freshman Team for his efforts.
The pair also comes into the 2010 spring season as the sixth-ranked doubles team in the country. During the 2009 fall season, the duo reached the quarterfinals at the ITA Indoor Championships in November after winning the ITA South Regional title on Oct. 25. They concluded the fall with an 11-2 record.
"We're really counting on Tim and Alex to lead this young team," Shore commented. "They have had some great experiences in their career and provide some needed leadership."
Also returning to the squad are Nick Maurillo
, Michel Monteiro
and Powell Porter
. Maurillo, a redshirt junior, brings back solid experience after having to sit out last season due to injury. Junior Monteiro and sophomore Porter will also be key in aiding the young team's growth.
"As a whole, we have some depth, but will still need the freshmen to step up," Shore added. "Hopefully the upperclassmen's example will help this team along."
The Tigers will add seven freshmen and a transfer for the 2009-10 season. Junior Alex Jorne joined the Auburn squad after spending two years competing at Fairleigh Dickinson where he was named to the All-Northeast Conference Second-Team last season.
Looking to be leaders from the start are freshmen Lucas Lopasso, Andreas Mies, Alexander Sajonz and Oliver Strecker. Lopasso is a top Brazilian contender, while Mies, Sajonz and Strecker are tough junior European players.
Joining them are Tim Hewitt, Davis Taylor and Michael Wardell. Hewitt comes to Auburn from the prestigious Reeds School in London, England, while Wardell hails from Fort Myers, Fla., and Taylor is a local product out of Montgomery.
"We're looking for some good things from this group right away," Shore said. "Lucas has some very good credentials coming in and Andreas had a good fall season under his belt.
"We have a lot of components right now. I'm not sure where everyone fits in, but we'll find out soon after the first couple tournaments," Shore added.
TOUGH SPRING SCHEDULE
Following this weekend, Auburn is handed another tough test as the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa for the ITA National Indoor Qualifier, Jan. 30-31. The squad will take on No. 19 Duke on the first day of competition and follow with a match against either No. 18 Alabama or No. 24 Arizona on day two.
"Looking at our schedule, the ITA Qualifier is a good measuring point for us as a team," Shore said. "Starting with Duke in the first round will be tough and the other two teams are good teams as well. We will know what we need to work on after that weekend."
February's schedule includes five non-conference match-ups, starting with UAB on Feb. 6 in Birmingham. Auburn hosts its first match on Feb. 10 against Troy and then travels to Georgia Tech on Feb. 17. The team closes out the month hosting Southern Mississippi on Feb. 20 and then heads Oklahoma on Feb. 28 to take on Tulsa.
Southeastern Conference competition begins in March with the Tigers facing three tough opponents from the start. The team hosts No. 5 Tennessee and No. 7 Georgia, March 5 and 7, and then travels to No. 11 Florida on March 12.
"Our conference schedule is going to be tough for us right away," Shore said. "If we handle those situations well and if we are able to come out as a better team from those experiences, I think it will bode well for the rest of the season."
The Tigers conclude the 2010 regular season with a match against rival Alabama in Tuscaloosa on April 17. The SEC Championships will be held in Lexington, Ky., April 22-25, and the NCAA Regional Tournament kicks off May 14.
GOALS TO BE REACHED
Last season's squad concluded the year well, finishing No. 21 overall and reaching the second round of the NCAA Regional before falling to Florida State. Coach Shore hopes that the team will be able to build on that and shoot for more.
"Our goal set at the start of the season is to make it to the round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament," Shore said. "We have some depth on the top and, even though it's going to take some time to get there, I believe we can be as good as last year."
With a difficult spring season and the many chances to continue learning and improving, nothing seems impossible for the team.
"If we learn from our losses and tough SEC matches early, we can be there at the end," Shore said.