Clarksville, Ark. - Tennis at the University of the Ozarks is on the upward swing under head coach Shaun Wiseman.
The men’s and women’s tennis program saw measurable growth under the helm of first-year head coach Shaun Wiseman in 2009. Wiseman sparked a quick turn-around for both programs. Most notably, Wiseman’s impact was seen in the women’s team as they made the largest stride finishing 2-9 overall and 2-3 in the conference, good enough for third-place with UT-Dallas and LeTourneau University. The Lady Eagles just missed a playoff berth by way of tiebreakers. The men finished 3-8 overall and 1-4 in conference play. In his second year, Wiseman is confident that the upward trend of both programs will continue.
“Both teams will remain competitive in the American Southwest Conference this season,” said Wiseman. “The women have a strong chance at finishing as high as second and qualifying for the playoffs. The men have a bigger talent gap to fill in relation to the other teams in the conference, but they will compete and be improved from last year’s results.”
Wiseman will turn to a pair of veterans to anchor his men’s and women’s teams. Briar Vona is the top returner for the women. As a junior, Vona has been tabbed one of the team captains and is coming off of an ASC All-Conference Honorable Mention season a year ago.
“Briar is the perfect D-III player,” says Wiseman. “She is the kind of player who has a very high tennis IQ and she will make you beat her, she doesn’t beat herself.”
For the men, a new No. 1 will take the court in 2010. Senior Brandon Carlson gets the nod in his fourth year on the team.
“Brandon did all the things he needed to do over the summer to jump into the No. 1 spot for the men,” said Wiseman. “He worked hard to fix his serve, and now he is a legitimate No. 1.”
As both teams continue to rebuild, a handful of young talent will be asked to gain collegiate experience as they go. The women’s team will feature a trio of impact freshmen.
“Emily Drake will win a lot of matches in her four years on campus,” predicts Wiseman. “Her game reminds me a lot of former standout Lea Rana.”
In terms of raw talent, Wiseman is excited about the potential of Tara Richards.
“She is the kind of player that has no ceiling for her game,” said Wiseman. “With tons of raw talent, she has a world of potential.”
Chelsea Glasscock highlights the incoming players for the women, and is a player that Wiseman believes will be “special” at Ozarks.
“Chelsea is a special talent, she is relatively new to the sport of tennis, but she hits a consistent ball and will do very well in conference play.”
On the men’s side of the court, first-year players Henry Stoltz and Jack Barry will have an immediate impact for Wiseman.
“Henry has great game already as a freshman, but still has room to improve,” says Wiseman. “Jack’s tennis game can only be described as beautiful. His play is just so effortless.”
A couple of players that Wiseman sees coming out from beyond the radar will be Jennifer Fretwell for the women, and Matthew Ede for the men.
“I believe that a lot of our women’s matches will hinge on the success of Jennifer, she will be the ‘X-factor’ for the women all season,” said Wiseman. “Matthew is a freshman transfer that has great strokes and will have to mature as a tennis player and learn to control his game. He could rise up and make an impact this season.”
Both teams open up the 2010 spring season on the road in Conway, Ark. to take on Hendrix College February 13th.
By Daniel Gallegos, Assistant SID