By Greg Peterson, Contributor
The Paladins men’s and women’s Tennis teams returned to action in September as both teams left the 2016 season with reasons to look forward to their return, though slightly different reasons for both.
The men finished off their 2016 season on a tear, making it to the SoCon finals despite being seeded third. The women’s team on the other hand were favorites entering the tournament but failed to meet expectations falling in the second round.
The men started their Fall campaign at the Penn Invitational, a tournament that featured a dual meet format, with teams playing eight singles matches and four doubles matches. The Paladins faced tough ranked teams from Columbia, Penn, Cornell and Yale.
Senior Adam Steryous, junior Cameron Green, sophomores Jake Munns and Alex Steryous and freshmen Jake Bhangdia, Trevor Croyder and Clarke Wilson played for the Paladins during the tournament.
Steryous and Green were both named to the All-Southern Conference first team last spring for singles. Green and Steryous were also named to the All-SoCon team at No. 2 doubles to lead for the Paladins.
Friday, Sept. 16, the Paladins defeated Penn, 3-0, in doubles and fell to Columbia University 7-4. The Paladins finished the rest of the weekend on top, beating Cornell, 5-4, toppling Old Dominion, 6-1, in singles and rounded out the weekend by knocking off Yale, 5-4.
Playing against ranked teams early in the season provides great experience for the team and indicates how the team will stack up when the regular season starts.
Returning for the Paladins are five players from last season’s team that had a 13-11 record overall and went 5-2 in the Southern Conference . Furman is led by head coach Kelly Jones who is entering his sixth season coaching for the Paladins.
As for the women, their season began at the Duke Bonk invitational in Durham, N.C. as the Paladins took on on some top competition from across the country. Senior Ansley Speaks was able to find herself a victory against Virginia’s Meghan Kelley in her first round but was unable to turn that into several more as she struggled throughout the rest of the day. Sophomore Katty Weymouth was able to defeat Skylar Holloway from LSU in one of her opening matches as well.
In South Carolina during the same weekend other Paladins were able to find slightly more success. Freshman Katarina Kosarov and senior Karlee Bryde were both able to win their draws in the USC-Upstate Fall Classic as they each found three straight victories.
While fall play does not necessarily mean as much as the spring, these tournaments offer great opportunities for the team to test and grow their skill against high-level non-conference competition. Hopefully this fall can help prepare the women to steal the SoCon title that they thought could have been theirs last season.
The Furman men will continue their fall season Oct. 1 and 2 at the Belton Invitational in Belton, S.C. The following weekend, the Paladins will compete in the Georgia Tech Invitational Oct. 7 to 9, and will close out the fall season at the ITA Carolinas Regional in Cary, N.C. Oct. 14 to 18.
The women will pick up their fall season in Malibu, California as they travel for the ITA Masters from Oct 13-15 and will then close out their seasons at the ITA Carolinas Regional in Chapel Hill, North Carolina from Oct. 22-25.
The Paladins will not open up regular season until February but the Fall season plays a major role in keeping the team sharp in competition and also builds player rankings.