LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Don't sleep on the Scots.
Featuring talent up and down the lineup, the Covenant men's tennis team looks to climb back up the USA South ladder in 2020. After back-to-back West Division titles in 2017 and 2018, the Scots ended up third in the division last season despite a 9-3 conference record.
With seven returners, including a pair of All-USA South performers, the Scots are poised to make noise in the league this season.
Covenant opens the season on Saturday with a neutral site match against Belhaven in Birmingham, Ala. (Birmingham Southern).
Under eighth-year head coach John Hirte, Covenant was picked third in the USA South West Division in the league's annual preseason coaches' poll but Hirte believes he has one of the deepest teams during his tenure. Over the last three seasons, the Scots have compiled a 24-5 record against USA South competition and will need that trend to continue in order to ascend to the top in the West.
There is no doubt the depth that Covenant will display this season. The Scots tallied 71 wins in singles play last year, and the seven returners this year combined for all but seven of those victories.
Leading the way is senior Logan Hull, who earned All-USA South first team last year after collecting nine wins at the No. 1 singles spot. Hull's doubles partner from a year ago in sophomore Chris Morton also returns after the duo went 12-7, while Morton earned nine singles wins.
Fellow sophomores Ben Luke and Tyler Kelly look to build off strong rookie seasons. Luke was an All-USA South West Division honoree after tallying 10 singles wins, mostly at the No. 3 spot. All Kelly did in his freshman year was set a Covenant freshman record with 16 singles wins while winning eight of his final nine matches of the year.
Sophomore Cameron Cortman went 8-3 against USA South foes in singles play and looks to be a factor once again this year. Junior Paxton Haggerty brings back experience after playing mostly at No. 2 singles last year and senior Tristian Smallwood rounds out the returners and he went 6-1 in limited action in 2019.
Hirte's recruiting class included two freshmen and a sophomore transfer. Ethan Gibson joins the Scots after spending a year at Birmingham Southern and could make a major impact in his first year at Covenant. Freshmen Jarred Jones and Gill Dunn completed the recruiting class and will look to make their mark in their debut seasons.
After opening the season this weekend, the Scots will travel to Centre (Feb. 14), Thomas More (Feb. 15), and Sewanee (Feb. 21) to wrap up a four-match road trip to begin the year.
The home opener is set for Feb. 22 against Birmingham Southern. That contest begins a nine-match homestand ranging from Feb. 22 through March 21. Covenant concludes February with Maryville (Feb. 28), Transylvania (Feb. 29), and Johnson (Feb. 29) at home.
In March, Covenant hosts Pfeiffer (March 3) and Oglethorpe (March 13) in non-conference matches before opening USA South play against LaGrange on March 14. The long home stretch continues into the middle of the month as the Scots host NAIA foe Freed-Hardeman (March 19) and USA South member Brevard (March 21).
After a trip to Berea on March 28, the Scots will conclude non-conference play with contests against Berry (March 31), Hendrix (April 3), and Rhodes (April 4).
Covenant finishes the regular season at home with key USA South matches against Piedmont (April 11) and Huntingdon (April 18).
The USA South Tournament is set to begin on Friday, April 24 at Rocky Mount, N.C., as part of the USA South's Spring Festival. The top four teams from each division will qualify for the tournament.
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