by Ty Schadt, Sports Editor

The men’s and women’s tennis teams are set to open their 2017 spring season Feb. 28 against Union College. Both teams have been on the rise over the past few seasons and are looking to build upon their successes moving forward. Coach Jarred Miller has been coaching the men for nine years, and the women for seven. However, this year he feels like there is something special in store for both.

The teams share a schedule, and therefore will have matches on the same days at the same locations. “It’s our first season playing like this, and there will be plenty for fans to watch and see,” said Miller.

2016 was a great year for the women’s team, to say the least. It included dishing IU Southeast their first loss in 17 seasons, which landed the team a spot in the National Tournament. Such a monumental victory has translated into an increased sense of confidence, and rightfully so. “I believe they’re the favorite to win the conference,” said Miller. Since the team did not lose any seniors over the offseason, it appears as though they are in a good position to live up to Miller’s expectations.

One of the women’s top returning players is junior Caitlin Conyers, who Miller described as “tough as nails.” In the conference tournament last season, the then-sophomore went unbeaten in singles and doubles matches, a mark which earned helped her earn the honor of KIAC Player of the Year.

The Eagles faced 10th ranked William Woods University in the opening round of the tournament last season, and were promptly eliminated. “If we get (to the national tournament) I hope we can get a better seed than we did last year so that we can get a better draw,” said Conyers. Despite the loss, the season served a massive step in the right direction for the women.

However, the 2016 campaign ended in bitter disappointment for the men. After a great regular season that consisted of undefeated conference play, the team got knocked off by IU Southeast in the conference tournament and was subsequently denied a bid to the national tournament. Thus, Miller claims “redemption” is their theme for 2017. Like the women, the men are returning everyone from last year, including six players who received All-Conference awards last season. Those honored were seniors Josh Abraham, Ty Abraham and Deuce Gibson and sophomores Shane Mustor, Julian Tellez and Aquille Trotman.

Abraham reinforced Miller’s message, stating, “Everyone on the team is giving their best effort to be better than they were last year so that we may redeem ourselves of last year’s conference title loss.”

Both teams had good showings at the River States Conference Individual Tournament in the fall. However, junior Seth Heinss acknowledged the teams shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves. “We must stay grounded. It will still take a lot of work to win conference and do well this season. We need to stay mentally and physically tough.”

In regards to what it will take for both teams to have successful seasons, Abraham hit the nail on the head. “Even though tennis is an individual sport, you can’t win on your own. Team spirit makes us stronger mentally and physically, and if we possess it, we can accomplish more than we could imagine.”

With both teams hungry for success and equipped with experienced players, it seems as though good things are on the horizon for Asbury’s tennis program.