The men’s tennis team will begin their fall season next Friday when they head to Athens for the Intercollegiate Southern Tennis Championships. In college tennis, the fall and spring season are very different.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association runs the fall season, which consists of team and individual tournaments, but the champions of these tournaments are not recognized by the NCAA. The spring season, which begins in January, is the season recognized by the NCAA.
The spring season starts off with team matches, followed by the team conference and national championships and then finishes with the NCAA singles and doubles national championships. Though the fall season is still competitive and the players want to do well, it is the spring season and the NCAA tournaments that teams are really striving to win and succeed in. If a college tennis team ever claims any kind of national championship, it would be the team tournament from the spring season.
“Without a single senior on the roster, Tech heads into the fall with a very inexperienced team.”
“You have to look at every match with the upmost importance, but the first couple of tournaments, guys are starting to figure out their games, especially the freshman coming in,” said sophomore Nathan Rakitt. “We have a lot of talent with this team and all the coaches, once official practice starts, have certain tactics they want to work on with each player. Then come regionals, which we are hosting in October; that’s really the pinnacle of the fall season. We all try to bring out our best there. There is a lot of training and figuring things out in our games so when the spring season comes along we can all play our best.”
Rakitt, who had an impressive freshman campaign last season posting a team high 22 singles wins, may be Tech’s best returning player. Rakitt made his collegiate debut last year in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships last season when he defeated Kyle Hoffman of Georgia Southern, before losing in the round of 16 to Virginia Tech’s Hunter Koontz.
Other returners include fellow sophomore Anish Sharma and juniors Eduardo Segura, Vikram Hundal and Colin Edwards. Incoming freshman Will Showers should compete for playing time for the Jackets. In Juniors, Showers was ranked as the eighth best player in the nation and third best in the southeast. The Jackets lost former starter Garrett Gordon, who transferred after the spring semester, but also brought in a transfer, redshirt sophomore Casey Kay.
“[Kay] was a great player in juniors,” Rakitt said. “Went to Georgia, they have had very good team these past few years and he didn’t get too much playing time. He comes in here with a lot of talent and he’s been improving tremendously these last couple of weeks in the unofficial practices.”
Kay was ranked as the third best recruit in Georgia coming out of high school and was ranked as high as 24 nationally according to tennisrecruiting.net. Interestingly enough, in Juniors, Kay partnered up with Rakitt to win the Spring Southern Closed Doubles Championship.
Without a single senior on the roster, Tech heads into the fall with a very inexperienced team. With tennis being more of an individual sport, it may not be as difficult as a transition to college as more team centered sports like football and basketball, but experience is still valuable. Although many of the younger players competed against some of the most talented players in the nation during Juniors, they probably weren’t competing against Division I talent every single match like they will be at Tech.
Asked if this fall season is particularly important due to the youth of the team, Rakitt responded, “Absolutely. We’re very young. The juniors have been with Coach Thorne and Coach Schwandt for two years now. Anish and myself have been here for a year now. Casey just transferred in, so we have four new guys. There’s a lot of learning to be done. Like I said, these first couple tournaments in the fall are really important.”
The team will follow up the Southern Intercollegiate Chamoinships with the UVA Ranked Invitational in Charlottesville in mid October, followed by regionals which will be hosted by Tech.