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Preview: Women's Tennis Aiming High in 2016

Preview: Women's Tennis Aiming High in 2016

Related: Schedule | Roster

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The Covenant women's tennis team, under fourth-year head coach John Hirte, will open the spring portion of its season on Saturday vs. Birmingham Southern. The match has been moved to the Racquet Club of Chattanooga and will start at 4 p.m.

The Lady Scots, picked to finish fourth in the USA South preseason poll, return the majority of the key players that helped lead the program to a 12-7 overall record (9-3 USA South) a year ago and a third place finish in the conference.

But Hirte is looking for greater strides this year. "I'm really excited for the women. We finished third the last two years in the USA South and I think we reloaded with key players who are going to jump in and help right away," Hirte said.

Top returners include sophomore Annie DeLuca, juniors Claire Luger and Gracie Smith along with senior Lindsay Geving. Combined, that quartet won 42 singles matches and 44 matches in doubles play.

DeLuca led the team with 12 singles victories last year, mostly at the No. 3 spot, and she also picked up 11 total doubles wins with 10 of those coming with Geving. "Annie had a stellar year playing at No. 3 and put a lot of work in in the summer and I expect another good year from her," Hirte noted.

Luger won nine singles matches at No. 2 in 2015, while Smith had 10 at the No. 4 position and Geving 11 at No. 5.

"Those three have been lineup staples for the last few years," Hirte said. "They bring leadership and all have accomplished a lot in both singles and doubles during their careers. They should anchor the middle and bottom half of the lineup."

Other returners include sophomore Jennie Spielman, who tallied seven singles victories and 12 in doubles play last season, along with senior Jessica Rowe and sophomore Mackenzie Jones.

Three newcomers join the team in 2016. Hirte brought in Aly Hall, a sophomore transfer from Army, along with freshmen Danielle Morin and Masha Lanska.

"Aly should be a top two player for us," Hirte said. "She brings good experience coming from a Division I program and is a great competitor and will bolster the top of our lineup."

"Danielle brings a lot of energy and should see some time in the middle or bottom part of the singles lineup," Hirte added. "She has enormous potential to be a leader and a mainstay in the lineup for the next four years."

Overall, Hirte is excited about the impact his team can make in the USA South this season. Though the conference has gotten stronger each year that Covenant has been a member, Hirte believes he has a team that can improve upon its third place finish the last two seasons.

"I think this is one of the most talented squads, top to bottom, we've had in program history and that's saying a lot since we won 16 matches two years ago," Hirte said. "Everyone is on the same page with the goals we want to achieve. If we play to our full potential, we can play with anybody."

After hosting Birmingham Southern on Saturday, the Lady Scots open USA South play at North Carolina Wesleyan on Feb. 19.


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