The Georgia State men’s tennis team is preparing for their upcoming season this spring. During the offseason, the team experienced changes from the coaches to the roster.
Bailey Showers’ transition from student-athlete to the coaching staff preserves a piece of last year’s team culture. Showers joins the staff of third-year head coach Jonathan Wolff.
The Panthers’ long-awaited season opener against the Charlotte 49ers will come on Jan. 30. The date seems far out, but the year has flown by. Their last match of the 2019-20 season came against the 49ers on March 8, so almost 11 months separate the program’s last taste of real competition.
Following the 49ers, the Panthers will finish their opening weekend with a match against Tennessee Tech on Jan. 31 and begin February on the road versus Liberty University on Feb. 5.
“This upcoming schedule has been a little tricky, but I feel competition-wise, it’s pretty good,” Wolff said. “It’s the first year since I’ve been here that our first couple matches are at home, and they are all winnable matches to get off to a good start.”
Last year, the team ended a shortened 13-game season with a 5-8 record. Currently, only upperclassmen make up the roster.
Shower’s expected immediate impact on the coaching staff is to offer guidance to the players. Shying away from experience and focusing on youth is something to which Wolff is no stranger.
“We did the same thing with Sebastian Acuna the previous year, and it’s always a huge benefit to have someone who is familiar not only with the players but also the comfort level and the trust the guys have in him,” Wolff said.
Wolff loves having a lot of familiar faces for the 2020-21 roster.
With the multiple veteran student-athletes returning, Wolff also expects the team to maintain strong chemistry, which will play a significant role in the team’s stability as they gear up for a full season.
“I wanted to reinvest a scholarship in my current players, and I took a pass on recruiting other players,” Wolff said. “You can do this in tennis mainly, but other sports, you really need to have a recruiting class, and we’re a small team so we can get away with eight or nine guys.”
Wolff’s excitement lies with the competition laid out for his team this season. They have a much-improved schedule that includes Auburn, LSU, South Florida and North Florida. After an intense match against Auburn last year, Wolff is anticipating their rematch.
“They are right down the road, and we played them really competitive last year,” Wolff said. “The score might not have reflected it overall, but at one point, we were a few points away from winning, so I wanted to give ourselves a second chance.”
Since the season ended abruptly last year due to COVID-19, the Sun Belt Conference has taken extra precautions to ensure all the teams are protected. All players and coaches participating in a tennis match must take a pregame COVID-19 test.
They will also have to wear a medical mask, with social distancing also enforced.
Georgia State prohibited the tennis team from participating in fall tournaments to reduce players and coaching staff’s exposure.
Other Sun Belt schools were able to play but under certain restrictions. The play of these other schools only increases the chances for a full 2021-2022 season next year.