GEORGETOWN, Texas - Southwestern tennis is entering a new era in many ways with the start of the 2013 spring season. New faces, a revamped conference, and new game plans have shown up on the Marvin D. Henderson Tennis Courts.
Head Coach Lester Sombito has brought in one of the strongest recruiting classes with five men and seven women looking to shake things up this season. "We have got a solid group of first-years this year," states Coach Sombito. "Combine them with our sophomores and they are going to be the majority of our line-up and carrying a lot of the load."
Fortunately, Coach Sombito has strong leadership on both sides in seniors Andy Clarage and Sarah Johnson. Both players have been important pieces in the puzzle in their career and they are sharing their knowledge with the younger players. "[The seniors] are the voice and foundation of this team," shares Coach Sombito. "They have done a great job of motivating and energizing the younger players and helped settle nerves in the fall which I anticipate to continue this spring."
Coach Sombito has especially taken notice of the men's senior, Andy Clarage. Clarage, a 2011 SCAC All-Tournament team selection, has shown impressive focus and determination so far, looking to make a mark in his final season. "The last few years he has really come out every fall and worked hard on his game and improved and you can really see it so far this season," states Coach Sombito. "I was surprised with where he was this fall and we expect a big year from him."
Four juniors, one on the men's side and two on the women's, will provide additional leadership to this young team. "The seniors and juniors have a lot of experience and my goal for them is to lead the team and teach this group how the season works, how if flows and the type of mentality they have to have throughout the whole season."
While the depth of the team is certainly the biggest strength of this squad, Coach Sombito feels that their fitness and new match philosophy are going to be the difference makers this season. "I am looking forward to the season. Our fitness is going to be a big contributor to how successful we are going to be. Also, the fact that we are young has allowed us an opportunity to change up our style and they have been really receptive to that. We are going to be more aggressive and attacking in our approach."
The Pirates open the spring season at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Invitational Tournament. The yearly event has always been an important one for SU, but is possibly more so this season.
"Our goal is to figure out where players belong within our line up as we go into our team tennis. It is a flighted tournament which is great because it allows us to see if our 1's and 2's are really that, all the way through the line-up. It will give us a clear picture of what our team is going to look like going into team tennis."
"It takes the pressure off the kids because it is a tournament and they are going to get to play a lot of matches and gets them back into the groove of match play and where they stack up."
After several team matches heading into spring break, Coach Sombito anticipates knowing the best line-up to end the season on a high note, culminating at the SCAC Conference Tournament.
"We break up our season into halves with spring break being the midway point and through those early matches we are able to really see what our best line-up looks like. After that point we are pretty well set. We then have a lot more of our matches after spring break so we can make sure we are playing our best going into the SCAC tournament."
While the effect of the new SCAC won't be felt until the conference tournament, this season the Pirates have the opportunity to face conference opponents Colorado College, Centenary and Austin College before the SCAC conference tournament in San Antonio beginning on April 26th.
Fans will have their first opportunity to see the Pirates in action at home on February 22nd as they take on LeTourneau at 9 a.m. and East Texas Baptist at 3 p.m.