January 29, 2014

Bright future has Pirate tennis excited for spring

GEORGETOWN -- Just with any coaching change uncertainty abounds in a program and that is no different as Billy Porter takes over the helm of the Southwestern University men's and women's tennis teams.

However, Porter has hit the ground running and so has a very young Pirate squad. Starting with a the most successful run at the fall ITA Southwest Regional in Southwestern history and capped off with Marieke Visser capturing the "B Draw" title.

"Both teams have adapted really well to the culture change we have brought in," said Porter who most recently served as the Regional Scouting Vice President for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. "I have been extremely proud of the leadership and hard work that has taken place from day one. This group really wants to lay the foundation for Pirate tennis."

On the women's side the Pirates will rely on only one senior and one junior to help lead a young team in 2014. Aimee Blake and Virginia Stofer enter as the only upperclassmen and are both helping lead a very talented group.

Blake will see time at the top of the lineup for the Pirates as a lot has been put on her shoulders. However, Porter feels that Blake has accepted the challenge and is providing the leadership the young Pirates need to be successful. She has also utilized the efforts of first-year head strength and conditioning Coach Doug Ross to get better during off-season workouts.

Also joining the mix is Visser – who returns after claiming the ITA B Draw Championship in September. The Georgetown native has put in the off-season work and could be ready to take the next step as her off-season workouts has vaulted her up the lineup for the Pirates.

Porter has also been impressed with Gabby Hunt and Elizabeth Ellis who have doubled to help in recruiting efforts during the off-season. Hunt is coming off a tremendous season that saw her post a 12-2 record overall and continues to put forth the daily one percent Porter is looking for.

The Southwestern men have also worked hard to during the off-season and accepting the culture change Porter has brought to the courts and increased competition during the early season practices.

The Pirates also lost four members who saw significant time, but as Porter stated the men have responded with the 'next man up attitude' and really fueled the competition. He has also been impressed by the response saying the early practice has gone better than a new coach could have expected.

While the competition and intensity level for the Pirate men has risen the lineup for Porter remains unclear. He also mentions the positive effects of the high level of competition making setting a lineup before Saturday's season opener murky.

While the Pirates early season goals still remain to maximize the potential on the court the overall preparation and potential has this squad hungry. Porter also mentions the high the team has continued to ride in the off-season that has carried over from a successful fall making spring practice really fun.

Team captains Egan Cornachione and Alvaro Rojas have risen to the challenge to lead the Pirates in 2014. Cornachione has brought an intense leadership style on the court that other have responded to while Rojas has balanced the two captains with his off the court leadership.

Sophomore Sam McCready has also been impressive early for the coaching staff. He returns after posting an 8-6 mark at No. 3 singles last year as a rookie for the Pirates and is poised for a breakout season.

Porter also mentions Nickoloz Snovely who will likely see action at No. 1 singles for the Pirates and brings excitement to the court every day. He also adds Snovely can be a cornerstone of the program and a talented individual this young Pirate team can build around.

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