Preview: Men's Tennis Looking for Bounce Back Year

Preview: Men's Tennis Looking for Bounce Back Year

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LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- With a 1-0 overall record heading into the spring portion of the 2016-17 season, the Covenant men's tennis team is already seeking to improve on a tough season from a year ago.

Under fifth-year head coach John Hirte, the Scots take the court for the first time this spring on Saturday when they travel to Birmingham, Ala., to take on regional foe Birmingham Southern. First serve is set for 1 p.m. EST.

Covenant returns just four players from last season, but that includes the reigning USA South Player of the Year in junior Matthew Harvie. Harvie went 13-4 at the No. 1 singles spot last year and was ranked regionally for a portion of the season before being named the best player in the USA South. The Scots also return All-USA South performer Chris Cox at the No. 2 singles position. Cox, a junior, was 11-7 in singles play and earned second team All-USA South honors.

"They have been a huge part of our team's success over the last two years," said Hirte of Harvie and Cox. "Now as juniors, most teams in the region and conference know who they are, so that will require Matthew and Chris to continue to improve."

The only other returners from last year are senior Connor Shimmel and sophomore Trey Wood. Both saw extensive action in the lineup and look to contribute once again this season.

The freshmen class takes up a majority of the roster as Hirte brought in six new players. Four of the six have already seen action in the fall and have impressed Hirte. "I love the energy that they have brought on the court. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this group will help the team this year."

Micah Fox (Ellington, Conn.) picked up a singles win in the Scots' victory over Milligan in the fall and then made a run to the championship match of his draw at the ITA regional tournament. Fox and fellow freshman Logan Hull (Conyers, Ga.) teamed up at No. 2 doubles for a win over Milligan and Hull also picked up a win in singles play. Trey Wetjen (Fayetteville, Tenn.) collected a victory at the ITA regional event as well.

Hirte also expects Ben Tonkel (London, Ky.), Tristian Smallwood (Griffin, Ga.) and Tim Wu (Guangzhou, China) to contribute in some way during the season.

With a talented recruiting class, Hirte is confident in his team's ability to win matches up and down the lineup. Covenant was picked to finish second in the West Division of the USA South in the league's preseason poll and Hirte believes a tough non-conference schedule will get his team ready for conference play.

"We play a tough non-conference schedule with UTC and then against most of the SAA," Hirte said. "Hopefully that will battle test us as we head into conference play because our division is not easy and we'll need to be well prepared for those matches."

After a match at Birmingham Southern on Saturday, the Scots host Gadsden State on Friday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at The McCallie School in Chattanooga. The Scots then take on Division I foe Chattanooga on Saturday, Feb. 18. USA South play opens on March 16 at Maryville.

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