Written by Ray Pack Jr. & Ace Espenshied
The Valdosta State tennis team looks to carry its recent winning ways into the Gulf South Conference tournament this weekend.
The women’s squad (11-7) enters the tourney as the second seed and will face West Georgia in the first round on Saturday.
The ladies did most of their damage in conference play, going 7-1.
One of those victories came against UWG when VSU won 9-0.
Head Coach John Hansen hopes his ladies, who have won seven of their last eight, are hitting their stride at just the right time.
“We really feel like we’re playing our best tennis right now and that’s all we can ask for,” Hansen said. “It’s a tournament. Everybody gets excited for a tournament so I don’t have to say much.”
It’s been an odd journey leading up to now for the ladies, going 1-5 at home this season, but finished 10-2 on the road or at neutral sites.
Hopefully that trend will continue in Montgomery, Ala., over the weekend.
If the Lady Blazers take care of UWG, they will see the winner of North Alabama and Delta State, both of which the VSU women beat convincingly this season.
That leaves a lurking No. 9 West Florida in the championship match on Sunday. Hansen knows that these aren’t the same women West Florida saw early in the season.
“If we can get to the finals we’ll [probably] play West Florida, and West Florida is a wild group and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Hansen said. “They are very emotional, but the key is to make sure we’re playing the best we can play during that moment.”
The men’s team enters the tournament at 9-11 overall and 6-1 in the GSC.
Winning 9-0 against Christian Brothers earlier this season, the Blazers hope to take care of business and move on to the winner of West or North Alabama in the second round. The winner of the tourney will be catapulted into the NCAA South Regional for a shot at the NCAA Division II title.
“We are looking to win it,” Mario Navarro, junior tennis player, said
Finishing the year off with a 9-1 record in the conference, the Blazers have earned the No.2 seed in the conference behind No.1 West Florida.
No.3 West Alabama follows No.4 Delta State, No.5 Alabama-Huntsville No.6 North Alabama and No.7 Christian Brothers.
If VSU beats CBU Saturday, they will advance to play the winner of West Alabama and North Alabama.
“It’s nothing we can’t handle, I would want to play North Alabama, but in a way I would play West Alabama for a tougher match” Andrew Harvin, freshman, said.
West Alabama poses as the only threat to the Blazers with their win over them coming only by one match they are sure to be on the Blazers radar.
“We don’t want to waste too much energy Saturday we gotta be ready for the title game on Sunday,” Navarro said.
The want for the rematch against West Florida is evident on the minds of the players.
The Argos ended the Blazers season last year.
“It will be redemption to play West Florida, another chance won’t hurt. This can show how better we have gotten and it will be a nice warm-up leading into the NCAA Tournament,” Harvin said.
The magic number to put the Blazers back in the NCAA tournament is three, but any loss over the weekend will subdue their chances of making the dance and their season will likely be over.