Men’s and women’s tennis prepare for season

Sophomore Nina Linke gets ready to serve in a match against Martin Methodist Feb. 15, 2017. The Lions will return five of the team’s top six players.

The North Alabama men’s and women’s tennis teams look to build off last season’s success for the upcoming 2018 season.

The Lions women’s tennis team lost to West Florida in the semifinals of last year’s Gulf South Conference tournament.

Tennis men’s and women’s head coach Brice Bishop said this year’s team could be better than last year’s team.

“We finished the year well last year, and all of our players finished well,” Bishop said. “The expectations are high for us this year with the GSC adding a top 10 school. Overall this year we are looking to be a more experienced, better team.”

The Lions will return five of the team’s top six players with GSC Freshman of the Year Nina Linke as well. The Lions will have one senior with Donna Haycock, three juniors with Claudia Arroyo, Claire DeGeorge and Nele Seitz.

UNA will also have two freshmen step up to play for the girl’s team.

DeGeorge said the team is ready for the challenge this season, and the goal is to improve in all areas of her game.

“We have all been putting in a lot of hard work this fall so I’m excited to see that pay off with good results,” DeGeorge said. “This season I want to improve on areas of my game that I needed to at the end of last season and to help the team be successful.”

The women’s team will start the season at Belmont Feb. 2 before returning to Florence to play Martin Methodist Feb. 7.

The Lions men’s team is in a different spot with the team replacing four of the top six players for the upcoming season.

Coach Bishop said this year’s men’s team could also be better than last year’s team.

“I think the men’s team is more talented than last year’s team, but the talent is inexperienced talent,” Bishop said. “All of our losses last season were to Division I schools and top 10 schools, so we played well all season long.”

The men’s team lost in the semifinals of the GSC tournament, but got a Division II NCAA tournament bid. The Lions lost in the first match of the NCAA tournament.

The Lions are replacing two All-GSC selections, but will be getting All-GSC selection Miguel Garcia and Troy University transfer Austin Racine for senior leadership.

Junior Jason Pimenta said the momentum of fall practices and scrimmages should help going into the season.

“As a team I think we are all playing really well from this fall season to the spring,” he said. “I think as a team we have really bonded and know what to expect from each other. So personally I’m really expecting us to go far in the GSC this season.”

The men’s team play at UAB Feb. 4 to open the season before returning home to play Martin Methodist Feb. 7.