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Blazers’ ready for tough road ahead
Men’s Tennis move forward to 2011 spring season
The UAB men’s tennis team has made it clear what the goal of the season will be this spring: get the Blazers to a noticeable national ranking and contend for the Conference-USA championship.
The Blazers’ quest for the conference championship has looked gloomy since they exited in the opening round of the Conference-USA Championship for three consecutive seasons. Yet they are looking to the upcoming spring season as a turn around. They return six of nine players on the 2010 spring roster, giving the talent-loaded team additional experience.
That experience should come in handy, since the team will take on ten nationally ranked opponents this spring, giving them a prime opportunity to show they can compete on route to a possible national rank themselves.
In order to prevail, the team will have to find consistent players throughout the lineup, starting at the top led by junior Danny Manlow and sophomore David Zimmerman. Manlow became a common figure near the top of the lineup as he ended the 2010 spring season at 11-7.
Manlow’s 6-5 stature brings a powerful service game to the lineup that troubled many opponents last season; however, Manlow will have to prove that he can overcome the grind over the tennis season healthily, as a foot injury limited him in portions of last season and seemed to be fighting the same injury during the last fall season.
Zimmerman did not take long to impress in 2010 opening the season with five consecutive victories and ultimately ended the season at 14-7. His powerful strokes from the baseline led him to finish his opponents in straight sets in 11 of his 14 victories. Zimmerman will also play a key role in doubles’ competition since he was featured alongside sophomore Tom Puetz.
The duo not only impressed, but also earned hardware as they claimed a doubles title in Tuscaloosa last fall at the Crimson Tide Fall Classic. Experience for the Blazers will have to come from senior Dan Cornei.
Cornei, who completed the 2009 season with a 12-6 overall record and an impressive 4-0 record in the number 3 slot for UAB, knows that the team faces a tough road ahead in 2011. “We do play ten ranked teams this season, but playing those teams will give us more experience to build up good play until the conference tournament, which is the most important part of the season. Also playing these kinds of teams gives us an opportunity to reach a national ranking,” Cornei stated. The Blazers are looking to get ranked nationally for the first time since 2008.
The team cannot rely solely on experience during their quest this season—leadership must also come into play, with four players making their dual-match debuts this spring. Along with two freshmen who debuted in tournament play over the fall, Englishman Christopher Helliar and Auburn native Nick Iannuzzi, the team will also introduce two South American recruits ready for the spring season: Uruguay international Lucas Dirube and Brazilian Pedro Castiglione.
These players must get ready quick, since the Blazers face their first tough test in the opening weekend of the season with a trip to Oklahoma to take on Conference-USA foe Tulsa (ranked 35th nationally) and Oklahoma State (47th nationally).
The team will get one match in Birmingham before the road trip as they take on North Alabama on Tuesday, February 1. The Blazers will continue to play their home matches this season at the Lakeshore Tennis Center.