LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The spring 2014 season begins for the Covenant women's tennis team on Saturday when they host regional power Birmingham Southern. The matches will be played at McCallie School in Chattanooga.
Under second year head coach John Hirte, the Lady Scots hope to compete in their new conference, the USA South, as they return key players from last season and gain newcomers that look to make an immediate impact.
The biggest news around both Covenant tennis programs is the construction of six new tennis courts on the campus. Although the courts are not quite ready for action, they are scheduled to be completed in time for the teams to play the majority of their home matches there this season.
"We are extremely excited about the new courts," said Hirte. "Being able to play matches on campus will create a true 'home court' atmosphere that will hopefully lead to more success and a more enjoyable experience for our players and fans."
The program returns strong players in senior Madeline Hyatt and juniors Gretchen Rowe and Sarah Carter. These three players will likely be Hirte's top three in the lineup this season. A senior from Marshville, N.C., Hyatt did not play last season as she studied abroad but played at No. 1 singles in 2012 as a sophomore and won a pair of singles matches at the No. 1 spot as a freshman in 2011.
Rowe and Carter add a strong veteran presence to this year's squad. Rowe, a local product out of Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga Christian, was selected to the GSAC All-Freshman team in 2012 and played all her singles matches at the No. 1 position as a sophomore a year ago. Carter, from Boca Raton, Fla., tied for the team lead with four singles victories last season.
Rounding out the top returners is sophomore Catherine Landers. Landers, out of Dalton, Ga., was selected to the GSAC All-Freshman team a season ago as she showed tremendous promise in her rookie campaign tying for the team lead with four singles wins to go along with three doubles victories.
In addition to a strong group of returners, Hirte has brought in newcomers that will look to compete right away. Claire Luger (Tampa, Fla.), Gracie Smith (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Ellen Kirkpatrick (Rutherfordton, N.C.) lead the group of freshmen in this year's recruiting class. All three players had very successful high school careers and look to have an immediate impact at the college level.
Other newcomers this season are Molly Peele (Sr., Albemarle, N.C.), Lindsay Geving (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Hannah Dunlap (Fr., Cartersville, Ga.). Hirte is excited about the depth that these players will offer the squad this season. All told, Covenant has 10 players on the roster.
Hirte's goal for his team is to qualify for the USA South Tournament, which means finishing in the top eight of the 13-team conference. Covenant was picked to finish eighth in the league's preseason poll released a couple of weeks ago.
The schedule will offer up some stiff competition for the Lady Scots beginning with Birmingham Southern on Saturday. Other tough non-conference opponents include Berry and Sewanee. Covenant will travel to the top two teams in the preseason USA South poll in Methodist and Meredith, but will host crucial matches with LaGrange, Huntingdon and Averett in conference play.
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