Lipscomb Bisons coach Andrew Harris likes what he saw from his team during the fall schedule and is optimistic about the spring.
“Throughout the fall we have spoken about having faith in one another and striving for excellence in what we do as a team and as individuals,” said Bisons tennis coach Andrew Harris. “Going into this fall season we were looking to accomplish a couple of different things.
“First, we wanted to find out how our freshmen were going to respond to the challenges of Division I tennis. Secondly, we wanted to find out how much our returning players had improved on since the summer.”
One of the things Harris always preaches at practice is competition. The first week of fall practice the Bisons held an intrasquad tournament to decide which four players would go to the University of Georgia Fall Invite. Two freshmen, Colby Shaw and Tanner Brown, and two of upper classmen, Mario Hernandez and Daniel Hangstefer, qualified.
Because of the rain in Georgia during that period of time most of the competition was in doubles matches.
Two weeks later the Bisons played in a tournament at Austin Peay State in Clarksville, Tenn.
“We competed very well, either winning or finishing second in all of the flighted brackets,” said Harris. “This was a great tournament because it gave the guys some good matches but also got their confidence level up going into the second half of the fall season.”
Harris split the squad the next week with some players traveling to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech Invite and some playing at a tournament hosted by the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“This was really a breakout tournament for the guys in Atlanta who registered wins over players from Georgia, Auburn, and Georgia Tech,” said Harris.
The final tournament of the fall was Oct. 16-18 at the University of Louisville. The Bisons registered 12 victories over the three-day tournament and posted another quality win over Indiana.
“What was good to see were the guys beating the teams they should win against and were able to raise their level of game when needed to get some excellent wins,” said Harris.
Harris is confident the team is taking ownership of the program in all facets.
“They are getting up early before class to work on serves with their teammates,” said Harris. “They understand the importance of the recruiting process by going the extra mile to make sure prospects are comfortable and enjoying their experience while on campus. They are seeing that doing the little things now pay off in a huge way down the road.”
Daniel Hangstefer, a senior, is one of the catalysts for the spring season.
“We will be relying heavily on Daniel to provide leadership for the program,” said Harris. “He has a great heart and spirit about who he is and cares deeply about this program.
“His best showing was at Austin Peay where he strung together a number of victories in doubles and singles. We are looking for him to compete somewhere in the top half of the line-up heading into the spring.”
Josh Cummings is also finishing his last year with the program. He was a strong competitor in the fall tournaments.
“In all three tournaments, Austin Peay, Louisville and UTC; Josh won multiple matches to either get into the semi-finals or finals of his brackets,” said Harris. “Josh will be competing for a starting position in the line-up as we head into the spring season and we look forward to seeing how he improves over the next two months.”
James Murrell, a junior, is one of three juniors who improved with each tournament during the fall.
“James has registered multiple wins at each tournament as well this fall,” said Harris. “He is certainly hitting his stride now and finding the right balance in term of his game style.”
Joe McArdle, also a junior, is from England. McArdle’s goal in the fall tournaments was to work on his consistency.
“Joe worked hard this summer to lose some weight and get in better playing form,” said Harris. “Given his experience we will be looking for him to step up this spring as a contributor.”
Mario Hernandez posted some some quality wins over Auburn and Georgia State at the Georgia Tech tournament.
“His leadership will be vital as he continues to motivate and encourage the team heading into January,” said Harris.
Chad Pierron is the only sophomore on the roster.
“Chad is the type of player that has tremendous weapons,” said Harris. “Behind his serve and forehand he has wins this fall over Indiana and Georgia. Given his style of play he has a tremendous opportunity ahead of him over the next two months to be in the line-up.”
All three freshmen bring a unique style to the program.
“Chris Ward has been competing throughout the fall in practice and his game has gotten better and better as the fall has progressed,” said Harris. “He has provided refreshing sense of leadership and hard work to the guys on the team as they strive to get better.
“Colby Shaw was rated one of top high school seniors in the Southeast coming out of Lexington, Ky.," said Harris. "His first two weeks here on campus he played at a very high level by qualifying to go to Athens for the Georgia tournament. He has the potential to be a very strong player for this program over the next four years with his versatility of volleys and forehand weapons from the baseline.
“Finally, Tanner Brown arrived in the fall as eager as anyone to get in the line-up and show he can play at this level. Tanner is still in the learning process as most freshmen are their first year, but has registered some quality wins along the way.”
Brown beat the No.3-seed from Georgia Tech in Atlanta three weeks ago.
“We are looking forward to January and starting up another season and building on the foundation that these guys have built over the fall,” said Harris. “As always, we know this year in our conference is going to be tough but the guys are learning to rise above adversity and create opportunities. I am excited to see how they will do.”