NASHVILLE, Tenn.- With a new coach and an experienced returning group of players, the Lipscomb men’s tennis team is determined to make a return trip to the ASUN conference final. The Bisons will first have to work through a difficult fall and spring schedule, which was recently released by the newly-hired Geoff Hernandez.
“We wanted to give our guys a chance to play top competition and to be exposed to the highest level,” Hernandez said. “To be ranked, you’ve got to beat ranked players.”
Hernandez is no stranger to the Lipscomb tennis program, having served as an assistant for three seasons before being named head coach in June. Since the team returned to campus in mid-August, Hernandez and strength and conditioning coach Joe Flinn have focused on getting their players prepared for the tough schedule.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with Coach Flinn to get our legs built up,” Hernandez said. “We are kind of seeing where everyone is (physically) and implementing new standards for fitness.”
The 2017-18 Lipscomb squad returns much of its experience from last year’s team that made an improbable run to the ASUN Championship final. Seniors Daniel Cardenas and Alejandro Manzanares, junior George Wong and sophomores Victor Chaw and Jorge Ortegon are each back and looking to top last year’s performance.
“It’s nice having those guys back,” Hernandez said. “They really helped us break through last season. The experienced players can show the new guys what it takes to be successful.”
The Bisons will spend the most of their fall schedule close to home. The slate includes the Dale Short Shootout from Sept. 22-24 in Murfreesboro and the Commodore Scramble from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at Vanderbilt.
“It’s nice for our guys to be able to sleep in their own beds for our first two events,” Hernandez said. “We are playing a local schedule in the fall because we’ll be on the road so much in the spring.”
Lipscomb will then take part in the Louisville Invitational in mid-October before arguably its biggest event of the year – the ITA Regionals, which will span from Oct. 19-23 in Knoxville.
“Having the ITA regional in our backyard is great because it’s easy for us to get there and be comfortable,” Hernandez said.
The Bisons will wrap up their fall schedule with the CCB Collegiate Invitational, which will be hosted by the University of Alabama from Nov. 10-12.
After breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Lipscomb will turn its attention to the spring portion of the schedule. The Bisons will host only eight home matches, but will hit the road for 13 contests.
“We’re taking the ‘road warrior’ mentality this year,” Hernandez said. “We know we have to win tough matches on the road in order to win our conference tournament.”
Lipscomb will begin the new year with a short trip to Vanderbilt on Jan. 21. The Bisons will then play host to Belmont (Jan. 26), Gardner-Webb (Jan. 27), Austin Peay (Feb. 3) and Tennessee Tech (Feb. 10) over the ensuing weeks.
Notable road opponents include Alabama (Feb. 11), UAB (March 4) and The Citadel (March 18). The Bisons open ASUN conference play at Kennesaw State on March 24th.
Home conference opponents include Florida Gulf Coast (March 29), USC Upstate (April 12) and NJIT (April 14).
The ASUN Championships will be hosted by North Florida from April 20-22. The Bisons are hoping to use last year’s runner-up finish as motivation to take the next step this season.
“Having success at the end of the season was great,” Hernandez said. “It showed our players what they are capable of. We need to treat each match with the same importance of tournament matches.”
New additions: Freshman David Skrabut (Nashville) and Pedro Uribe (Medellin, Colombia) have officially been added to the Lipscomb roster. Skrabut is fresh off winning the 2017 TSSAA Class A/AA State singles championship and is the only American on the roster.
“We’re really excited to have someone from Tennessee on our roster, especially because (Skrabut) is one of the top players in the state,” Hernandez said. “We really want him to show other local players that Lipscomb is a great place to be.”
Uribe arrives as an ATP-ranked doubles player, and he has also been ranked in the ITF singles rankings.
“Pedro is our second Columbian player and he’s had success getting ATP doubles points, so he brings a high level of play,” Hernandez said. “Both of (the additions) are high character guys from good families, so they’ll fit in well at Lipscomb.”
For more information on the men’s tennis team, stay tuned to LipscombSports.com and follow the team on Twitter @LipscombMTEN.