LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The spring portion of the Covenant men's tennis season gets underway on Saturday as the Scots take the trip down the mountain to square off with Division I Chattanooga. The match is set for a 6 p.m. start at the Hixson Racquet Club. Live stats for the match (courtesy of Chattanooga) can be found by visiting athletics.covenant.edu/live
The match will mark the first time the program has faced a Division I team in a dual match since it started in 2008. "It's a tough match against UTC," head coach John Hirte said. "But it's a great one for our program and to further the relationship with UTC."
The Scots, under Hirte who is in his fourth year, come into the spring picked to finish fifth in the USA South, according to the league's preseason coaches' poll. Hirte's squad finished in a tie for fifth in the USA South last season and earned a trip to the conference tournament.
Two key players return from last season's team in sophomores Matthew Harvie and Chris Cox. Both earned All-USA South honors a year ago and Hirte is looking for even better things out of his top two players in 2016. Harvie spent most of 2015 at the No. 1 singles spot and went 9-5 overall and 6-2 in the USA South. Cox accumulated 10 singles wins and the tandem won nine matches playing as doubles partners.
"I want them to build on the success that they experienced last year," Hirte said. "Both of them are work horses and are striving to get better. Everyone knows who they are this year and will be coming for them at the top of the lineup, but they are up for the challenge."
"Madden was a critical guy for us last year, especially in doubles play, but I expect him to be a factor in both singles and doubles this year," Hirte said. "Hutchinson and Shimmel are the two captains and emotional leaders and drivers of the team. Both of those guys bring energy and intensity to their play."
The lone newcomer on the team in freshman Trey Wood. Wood was a successful player in high school at Donelson Christian Academy and Hirte likes the potential he sees from the freshman.
"He'll play in the middle of the lineup," Hirte noted. "Trey has a lot of potential and will only get better as a college player. I expect him to win matches and be solid in the middle of the lineup."
Covenant's schedule is a challenging one. After the Scots open at Chattanooga, they'll host regional power Birmingham Southern on Feb. 13. USA South play opens on Feb. 19 at North Carolina Wesleyan followed by Methodist on Feb. 20. Covenant will return home on March 4-5 against Millsaps (4th) and Piedmont (5th).
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