Graduate student provides value to tennis team

Tennis player Benji Poire prepares to backhand a shot in UNA’s match against Delta State Feb. 28. Poire, a graduate student from Amiens, France, is 7-2 from the four seed this season.

Since flying in from France in 2014 with high expectations, graduate student Benjamin Poire, a member of the UNA tennis team, appears to be living up to the hype.

Poire is on an individual six-game winning streak, carrying a 7-2 overall record for the Lions. He is 5-1 against teams from the Gulf South Conference.

Poire has bounced between the third and fourth seed in the lineup this season. After suffering an ankle injury against West Florida Feb. 13, Poire was bumped down to No. 4.

“It doesn’t matter to me (what seed),” Poire said. “I just want to win every match and help my team any way I can.”

Poire was hard to scout before joining the Lions but has been successful, said UNA coach Brice Bishop.

“My expectations of all of the international players are the same,” Bishop said. “The moment they step off the plane, I hope they are the quality player that I thought they would be. My expectation for him was he would be toward the top of the lineup, and he has held true to that.”

Returning after his senior year with eligibility left, Poire’s selfless attitude fits the team’s desired philosophy, Bishop said.

“What impresses me the most about Benji is he could’ve started his life after college back in France, but he came back here to help this team,” he said. “He put his life on hold to help this team be successful. He’s such an unselfish guy.”

As a doubles player, Poire holds a 4-0 record partnered with junior Max Druppel. His leadership helps the team tremendously, said sophomore Taylor Ausbon.

“(Poire) has made a huge impact to our team since coming back,” Ausbon said. “He gives us solid wins at a high spot on the team. His experience gives him the edge in winning tight matches.”

As for his post-college life, Poire said he would consider coaching tennis, but his ultimate goal is to stay in the United States for a little longer.

“I want to live here for at least one year so I can get my parents out here and so they can experience America for the first time in their lives,” Poire said.