With the new men’s tennis season underway, the challenges start anew. On December 12, 2014, the previous men’s tennis head coach Nick Zieziula resigned from his position.
The team is now being led by interim head coach Carlos Oyaga until a new coach is signed. With three freshmen and two sophomores on the ten man roster following him, Oyaga has an interesting season ahead of him.
But he isn’t worried.
The hole left by Zieziula is a tough one to fill. When he was head coach, Zieziula was part of a major turnaround in the men’s tennis program. He was able to take the Eagles and their 3-20 record in 2012 and lead them to an 11-9 season in 2013.
Oyaga knew what to expect taking on the interim head coach position. He also knew what Zieziula had done and where the team’s mindsets would be.
“With the group of guys we have at this point, they have been through a lot,” Oyaga said. In regards to Coach Zieziula leaving, Oyaga said, “It’s not hard on anyone. It’s just professional experience.”
The team has been working hard since fall, and Oyaga knows this team needs to always keep moving forward.
“Focus on the now,” Oyaga said. “Focus on what we need to do each day, one at a time; to have a successful season, and what I mean by that, is to have the best opportunity to compete on the court. We’re so focused on what we need to improve on. It’s just working on the development of the guys.”
“Steady improvement” was one of the phrases used by Oyaga to explain the team.
Although the Eagles could not take the victory in the season opener against Georgia Tech this past weekend, they are not discouraged. Senior Kyle Hoffman knows this team has a lot to offer. They are ready to show what they can do this season.
“We got a good group of guys, a young group of guys,” Hoffman said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them grow. We should have a very good spring semester.”
In the fall, freshman Jose Eduardo Landin Lopez was able to put up an impressive 9-5 record. Also leading with him was senior Albert Codina Sala, who went 9-5, junior Ristomatti Lanne, who went 8-4 and junior Daniel Casablancas, who went 6-3.
In the season opener against Georgia Tech last Saturday, Lanne was the only Eagle to secure a win against the Ramblin’ Wreck in Atlanta.
Highs and lows are expected for the season, but Hoffman knows this team is ready. When asked about the best part of this team, Hoffman immediately said, “Team chemistry. We’re all looking out for each other. We’re all making sure we’re improving.”
Zieziula’s departure more affected the team on a personal level. “[Coach Nick] always looked out for us, as people, not just players. He looked out for all of us,” Hoffman said.
It’s the same players on the team sticking together that can cover what Coach Zieziula leaves behind. It’s that same drive that keeps them moving.
Men’s tennis will have a home meet in the Wallis Tennis Center, next to Hanner, against Kennesaw State on Saturday, January 24. They will begin play at 12 p.m.