In his second year as the head coach last season, Brett Ross had the Panthers going undefeated in conference play at 4-0 and 17-6 overall. In addition, the Panthers earned their highest ranking in nine years at No. 51 ITA. Coach Ross had the Panthers ranked No. 1 overall in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, but the team fell short of expectations losing to UT Arlington 4-1 in the semifinal round.
“I’m really excited for our team to build on last year’s success,” Head Coach Ross said after Georgia State’s Men’s Tennis fall schedule was released.
Despite coming up short, the Panthers still had one of their best seasons in nearly decade last season and are returning this season with all six starters.
The magnificent six
The Panthers are back like they never left, with all their starters coming back. It’s rare for a college team after such a successful season to have all of their starters returning.
Star singles player Jannis Koeke is returning for his senior year coming off an amazing season last year. Koeke finished the season with 11-8 singles record at the No. 1 position. He had two wins over ranked players and four match-clinching wins last season, and he was named to the 2016 All-Conference Singles First Team. With another year under his belt at the No. 1 position, look for Koeke to be the leader of this team.
Another player returning for his senior year is Zackery Kennedy who finished last season with a 12-6 record, 3-0 in conference, at the No. 2 position. Kennedy also finished with the second best record for the doubles competition on the team with partner Jack MacFarlane going 9-6 on the season.
Kennedy had the best offseason compared to any of his teammates after competing in the BB&T Atlanta Open in doubles competition with partner Chris Eubanks, a player from Georgia Tech. Kennedy and Eubanks were selected as a wild card spot going into the tournament and were able to make it all the way to the quarterfinals where they fell 7-5, 7-5. Kennedy scored the winning point in their win in the first round of 16. Kennedy is coming into this season in mid-season form thanks to playing the highest competition in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) BB&T Atlanta Open tournament.
Returning for the No. 3 starting position is junior Andrei Andrukhou, who finished last season 11-7 in singles play and 1-0 in conference play. Anrukhou was tied for the third most singles wins on the team, scored the only point against Georgia Tech last season and had two match-clinching wins. However his best attribute last season was his doubles play going 11-7, which was the most doubles wins on the team.
Speaking of star doubles players, Anrukhou’s partner Sebastian Acuna is also coming back for his junior year. Acuna plays the No. 4 position on the team and went 10-5 in singles play and 2-0 in conference play. With Acuna and Anrukhou both coming back and building another year of doubles chemistry, look for them to dominate in doubles once again.
Last year’s freshman standout player MacFarlane is coming into this season with another year of experience. MacFarlane was ranked second on the team in singles wins with a record of 13-7 and plays the No. 5 position. MacFarlane was by far the clutchest player on the team last season thanks to his six match-clinching wins. In addition, he had a 10-9 doubles record with Kennedy and both look to continue their winning ways in doubles competition at the No. 2 position.
The most successful singles player on the team last season, Felipe Jaworski is coming back as well for his senior year at the No. 6 position. Jaworski had a 15-3 singles record and went 8-9 in doubles play. Jaworski is versatile playing with three different doubles partners and also playing at the No. 5 position depending on the team they are facing that day. Look for Jaworski to keep being that all around versatile player that this team needs.
With all six starters returning, a championship is on the horizon
Building on last year’s success seems to be this teams theme this season. The Panthers plan to prepare for the upcoming spring season by competing in four exciting tough competition tournaments, including two ITA national tournaments. A true to test to whether this team can truly build off of last year’s success and get that Sun Belt Championship that alluded them last year.
“The fall schedule will allow our players to compegte against some of the highest quality competition,” Coach Ross said in a press conference. “The All-American will be the highlight for our guys, as it always attracts the best players in the country.”
The fall schedule for the team is indeed exciting, but it is no way easy. However to prepare for the spring season, you have to prepare for the best and no better way of doing that than playing in four difficult tournaments.
The first tournament for the Panthers will be the Southern Intercollegiate Championships hosted by Georgia from Sept. 23-26. The Panthers played in this tournament last year, with Jaworski winning his bracket and MacFarlane going to the semifinals in his bracket.
The second tournament is the first ITA event called the All-American, which will be hosted in Tulsa from Oct. 1-10. This is the tournament that Coach Ross believes will be the toughest. Then just nine days later, the Panthers will compete in the second ITA event called the ITA Regionals. The ITA Regionals will be hosted by Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. from Oct. 19-24.
The final tournament of the fall season will be the Wake Forest Fall Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C. from Nov. 11-13. The Panthers will be competing in this tournament for a third year in a row.
With a tough fall schedule, look for the Panthers and their magnificent six to be primed and ready for the spring.