The Tennessee men’s and women’s tennis teams will begin their seasons Friday as the men travel to Louisville, Ky., for the Louisville Fall Tournament, while the women will play in the SEC Coaches Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham’s men’s squad is coming off an eighth place finish in the Campbell/Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s poll after finishing last season with a record of 23-7.
Winterbotham was also named the 2009 ITA Southeastern Regional Coach of The Year.
Junior John-Patrick Smith has been named an All-American in singles and doubles play in each of his two seasons at Tennessee, and Winterbotham is proud of the accomplishments Smith has made on the court and in the classroom, as he was an ITA Scholar Athlete last year.
“John-Patrick is a great example for any athlete at any school,” Winterbotham said. “Not only was he among the nation’s best in his field, he’s also one of the elite students on campus.”
Smith and his doubles partner Davey Sandgren were national runner-ups at the NCAA Championships but finished the season as the No. 1-ranked doubles tandem in the country. Senior Matt Brewer recently finished second at the ITA/USTA National Summer Championships.
Winterbotham is expecting Brewer’s hard work to carry into the season.
“(Matt has) just been getting better every semester,” Winterbotham said. “It’s good to see him work hard and get the fruits of his labor. He had a tremendous spring and won some big matches, and his confidence has shown.”
The Lady Vols are hoping to improve off their 10th place finish last year under co-head coaches Mike Patrick and Sonia Hahn-Patrick. Senior Caitlin Whoriskey and sophomore Natalie Pluskota finished as the squad’s top doubles team last season ranked eighth in the Campbell/ITA poll. Whoriskey and Pluskota advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships last May. This summer, Pluskota won the singles title at the ITA/USTA National Summer Championships and was very excited about the win and getting back to Tennessee to prepare for the upcoming season.
“I’m definitely pumped about winning this tournament,” Pluskota said after the win. “I’ve worked hard all summer, and this will just give me more confidence and momentum heading into the fall. I’m excited to get back to school to continue working on my game.”
Whoriskey and fellow senior Zsofia Zubor will lead a Lady Vol squad that returns five players from a year ago and adds freshman Kata Szekely. Hahn-Patrick likes the look of the Lady Vols’ roster heading into the fall.
“I’m excited for this year’s team, and, as always, our schedule is tough, so it helps prepare us for the SEC Championships in March,” Hahn-Patrick said. “… Our players had much success throughout the summer, and I know they will continue to be confident. We look forward to the leadership of our two seniors and know they will help keep everyone focused on what they want to achieve this year.”