Combined with their two freshman recruits acquired in the fall, the Bisons now have five new faces adding depth to their roster and surprising familiar opponents with a seemingly brand new team.
“This team is certainly the deepest team we have had here at Lipscomb, and we are expecting some great things from this group,” coach Andrew Harris said. “The challenge for this group of guys will be mixing in the new players as well as the returning players.”
One of the Bisons’ off-season transfers is actually a familiar face to Lipscomb. Sophomore Colby Shaw came to Lipscomb for his freshman year but transferred to the University of Kentucky for the fall semester of his sophomore year.
Shaw had an impressive freshman season with the Bisons, posting a 9-3 singles record. However, for five months of his freshman year, he sat out of tennis while recovering from mononucleosis.
Shaw attributes much of his decision to transfer to Kentucky to the negative effect the illness had on his experience at Lipscomb.
After spending a semester at Kentucky, it seems the decision to return to Lipscomb came easily for Shaw.
“As soon as I decided to leave and stop playing tennis, I realized I was going to regret it,” Shaw said. “I loved UK, but not half as much as I love Lipscomb and all my boys on the team.”
Since Shaw has been back, the atmosphere of the men’s tennis program has been much more positive than his first go around. He said he feels lucky to be a part of it.
“It's pretty cool this time around because I've been somewhere else now and realize how awesome it is here and how lucky I am to play on a team with such a great group of guys,” Shaw said. “There is more of a optimistic vibe this year, and we really feel like we are going to be major contenders in conference, which is awesome.”
But Shaw is not the only one glad he’s back at Lipscomb. Men’s assistant coach Mike Sherman said Shaw’s mentality will make him a huge asset to this season’s team.
"Colby is willing to do what it takes to be a winner,” Sherman said. “In practice and in matches he is attentive to every detail to make sure he is in the best position to win. He uses his aggressive style and powerful ground strokes to frustrate many opponents. Colby will be a great asset in doubles and singles the entire season.”
Over Christmas break, the Bisons also acquired sophomore Eastern Washington University transfer, Daniel Lee.
Lee has played in one match for the Bisons this season, falling at No. 5 to Vanderbilt’s Alex DiValerio 6-3, 6-1, but Sherman said he is developing into a strong component of their team.
"Daniel has a huge forehand and uses his speed to attack his opponents,” Sherman said. “With his willingness to listen to his coaches and fight hard, he could become a great player."
The third off-season addition, Miguel Cortez, came to Lipscomb all the way from his hometown of Oporto, Portugal. Being so far from home, Cortez said “it was difficult [at first] to adjust, but with time I will feel better.”
Cortez has yet to play a match for the Bisons, but Sherman is excited about his potential.
"Miguel has an intense fire out there to win and compete,” Sherman said. “He looks to keep points short with his big serve, forehand, and athleticism. He has a ton of potential, and we cannot wait to get him out there in matches."
In addition to the three off-season additions, the Bisons acquired two new freshmen at the start of the fall semester.
Freshman recruit David Salazar has proven over the fall season to be an excellent addition to the Bisons. Salazar posted four wins for the Bisons during their fall season.
The Texas native said he chose Lipscomb for a variety of reasons.
“[The] location is great,” Salazar said. “I love the size, Christian atmosphere, and most importantly, good team chemistry.”
Salazar hopes to become an “ambassador to the team,” and Sherman said he expects him to do just that.
“David works incredibly hard for every single point and is a constant source of encouragement for every single teammate,” Sherman said. “He has a ton of experience playing at a high level, and he is only freshman. It is only matter of time before he becomes one of the bigger leaders on this team."
Finally, the Bisons also acquired second semester Auburn transfer, Oliver Strecker, in the fall. Strecker, the Bisons’ No. 1 player this season, posted nine wins during the Bisons’ fall season, showing the high-level competition he brings to Lipscomb’s program.
Strecker, who’s originally from Gemmingen, Germany, spent one semester at Auburn before coming to Lipscomb in the fall for the remainder of his freshman year.
Strecker said he chose Lipscomb because it provides both academic and athletic excellence, while also incorporating a Christian atmosphere. He said he hopes to be able to aid in building the “foundation of a ranked tennis program.”
“What I like the most about Lipscomb is that it is a prestigious school academic-wise,” Strecker said. “I want to help us build a legacy— for me that was really important because while playing for Auburn, I felt that their tennis program was already finished.”
Sherman said Strecker will be a tremendous asset to the program and contribute great things this season.
"Oliver brings a highly competitive spirit to the team,” Sherman said. “Combined with his great shot-making ability, he will contribute in a major way this coming season."
Clearly, the new additions will bring a great amount of depth and competition to the program. Senior Mario Hernandez said that level of competition is also helping the veterans on the team.
“Now that we have ten guys that can all play well in the lineup, it makes our practices that much more competitive, because everybody is fighting for a spot in the lineup,” Hernandez said. “That can only make us better. The team dynamics have changed a bit but in a good way. There is a little bit more swagger on this team.”
Three matches into the season, the Bisons are 1-2, but with several of their most daunting matches out of the way, the Bisons have high hopes of accomplishing great things this season.
Written by Ashlan Williams, student assistant in athletics media relations.