Tennis Takes the Weekend by Storm

Photo by Andy Keller

JU’s Men’s Tennis team competed multiple times this week, securing many victories, but defeats as well. Tuesday and Saturday the team went almost undefeated, sweeping Bethune-Cookman in the singles match and winning all but one doubles match. In addition, they swept Hampton University in singles, but chose to skip the doubles match to avoid inclement weather. However, on Sunday, the team fell short and even the superior performers from Tuesday and Saturday lost matches. Only the freshman duo of Eimon Heywood and Eduardo Martinez won their match, 8-5. The Dolphin’s did not give Florida Atlantic University an easy victory. After displaying a fantastic set of skills, junior Jose Fantova finished in the number one slot on Tuesday and sophomore Larry Condez won his match without giving up a single point on Saturday, both players went three sets before ultimately losing the set to the FAU Owls. JU’s Women’s Tennis also competed on Saturday to improve their 2012 season to 2-3 by defeating Hampton University. Undesirable weather led to the omission of the doubles portion. However, the Women Dolphins displayed their undefeated player, freshman sensation Aline Staudt, with a 5-0 season.

Freshmen Stand Out

Saturday was one to forget as South Carolina State took the Jacksonville University men’s and women’s tennis team to the cleaners, defeating both teams, the men 0-2 and the Lady Dolphins 6-1. JU hosted SCS Saturday afternoon at the Keith Watson Family Tennis Complex.

However, it was a good time for JU freshman on both the men’s and women’s teams to shine.

Freshman Aline Staudt won her singles match and remained undefeated in 2012.  Staudt improved to 3-0 on the season with a win against SCS’s Suhaila Jad on court one.  She was able to win in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.

Staudt and her teammate, Natalia Marques Melibeu, entered the courts as an undefeated doubles team but were unable to keep that streak alive. Opponents Maria Craciun and Akilah James crushed Staudt and Melibeu 8-0.

Senior Virginia Iwinski was the only Lady Dolphin to press on in her match to three sets.  She fought hard but was defeated by Katarina Barborikova 5-7, 6-3, 1-0.

Richard Casagrande and Eduardo Martinez, Staudt’s freshman male counterparts, were able to score enough points to win their singles matches and to rack up the men’s teams only points for the match.

Casagrande was able to defeat SCS’s Laug-Eun Lee in straight single sets 7-5, 7-5, marking Casagrande’s second win of the season in just as many matches.

Casagrande was able to find equal success with his doubles partner Fernando Bano Lopez. In the doubles competition both assisted the other in defeating the team of Viogradous and Niktin 9-7.

Working a little bit more for his singles victory, Martinez took to the court for his win, beating out his opponent in two out of three sets.  He defeated Bizon 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.  This was Martinez’s first singles competition for this season and it moves his individual record to 1-0.

This new loss brought the men to their current record of 0-2 for this season.  The Lady Dolphins move to 1-2 on the season after the loss.  Both teams return to action at home when they take on Bethune-Cookman Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m.

Tennis Program Gets Tossed

Photo courtesy of Dustin Mollohan

“I’ve been here two weeks,” she said.

What she did not say, what she could not find the words for, what she was incapable of preventing herself from expressing via every nonverbal indicator simultaneously betraying her, was that a lifetime of dedication was now threatened.

Years of arduous training and conditioning and the deep consideration of which school to attend led each of them here to America, here to JU, here to play tennis, the sport they love.

They came from Recife and Sao Paulo, Brazil.  They came from Ontario and Vancouver, Canada, from Suzled, Germany and from Loures, Portugal. The only American hails from Georgia. “She,” could have been any one of them.

On Jan. 27, Jacksonville University’s Board of Trustees voted to eliminate tennis from the school’s athletics program. Due to fiscal limitations and waning support for the program, both men and women’s tennis will cease play at the end of this season. Those who chose to continue their education here will retain their scholarships. Those who do not are free to transfer without NCAA penalty.

Even on the condition of anonymity none of the tennis players or coaching staff were willing to go on record. But with the amount of speculation and conjecture sweeping over the campus last week regarding the seemingly abrupt termination, somebody needed to quell the controversy.

President Kerry Romesburg, Ph.D., sits high above Jacksonville University’s manicured campus and watches Dolphins traverse the quad tending to their day-to-day business. It is from this perch that he and his administration make some of the toughest decisions facing colleges today.

“Very few schools make money on sports,” said Romesburg, also one of the 10 university presidents that comprise the Atlantic Sun Conference Presidents Council. On a national scale, he surmised that more than 12 schools make money on sports, up to about 26 this year due to the expansion of the NCAA super conferences such as the Big 12 and the SEC.  “We are among the majority that lose money,” Romesburg said.

The questions on Jan. 27 remained—why tennis, why now?

“Why tennis, I couldn’t tell ya,” said Joel Lamp, associate athletic director for external affairs.

“Why now, because it’s a board meeting.”

Dr. Romesburg elaborated on Mr. Lamp’s levity.

“This isn’t easy for any one involved. I expressed that, when I met with the coach and when I met with the team, that there is no dissatisfaction with them or with the sport,” said Romesburg.

It has not been easy on the students or alumni either. Many have sent emails in protest and Jacksonville University Student Alliance (JUSA) President Zach Shacter spoke on behalf of the program personally at last month’s Board of Trustees’ meeting.

According to what Shacter was told in the meeting, we would need $8 million in reserve over the next 15 years to continue tennis. President Romesburg and Athletic Director Alan Verlander dispute this.

According to them, an endowment or donation of just a few million dollars would preserve the program, but for how long they did not say. What they did make clear was that this has been a long time coming.

JU has 21 sports programs if counting cheerleading; this is two more than our closest comparable A-sun conference opponent.  How we grew to include this many sports and are consequently faced with having to scale back is a story of time and money. As support for each new sport arose, and financial backing and community interest grew with it, JU adopted one after another. Due to waning support and community interest however, something needed to be eliminated for the school to be able to make budget in the coming years.

“Costs are rising and deficits are increasing,” said Romesburg. “We did a cross analysis of each sport and tennis came out on the bottom.”

The analysis took place in October. Prior to that, the JU president and his nine A-sun President’s Council counterparts had to meet and vote on rule changes to allow the schools involved to be able to eliminate sports at all and to also be able do so without penalty. Once the rules were changed, the decision process began.

Unbeknown to coach Justin Miles was the potential for a sword of Damocles to cut short his inaugural campaign as JU’s Head Coach of Men’s and Women’s tennis.  According to the JU athletic page, Miles left Georgia Southern after nine years with a mostly successful on-the-court record and having mentored his players to off-the-court achievements as well. Though he declined to comment, both the decision to cut the program and the manner in which he found out left an echo of despair in my ear when I hung up with him last week.

According to Verlander and President Romesburg, coach Miles did find out before they could meet with him that this would be the program’s final season.

President Romesburg conceded that the decision to cut tennis was known only to he and the A.D., and the other nine members of the A-Sun president’s council. The meeting held that determined this outcome was a closed-door session. He opted not to speculate further.

The administration also went on to say that this decision was in no way an indication that the university is in financial trouble. They also expressed that the recruiting of a new marching band and the growing support for Lacrosse did not influence the decision either.

According to the collegiate-athlete recruiting website Athleticscholarships.com, JU dispersed more than $3 million in scholarships last year, including those to athletics. The operating costs for the tennis program did not exceed the NCAA Division I-AA school average, but did break even when contrasted to the amount of revenue the sport brought in. JU administration neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of these figures.

The JU Dolphin family, to include students, faculty, staff and alumni has expressed sadness at the loss of the tennis program. The Navigator has received emails and Facebook messages offering support. Unfortunately, that support has not yet translated into donations or pledges of a financial offering, to which the administration would lend considerable attention. Barring that, tennis at JU will see its last serves and volleys this spring.

“We tried to manage this the best way we could,” Romesburg said.

Women’s Tennis Springs Into New Season

Photo by Brett Durda

JU Women’s Tennis returned to action Saturday marking the opening of the spring season. According to the university’s athletics page, although Florida Atlantic bested the team 4-3, all was not lost.

The 2012 season was kicked off when freshman Aline Staudt defeated Justine Humail of FAU 7-5, 2-6, 1-0. Sophomore Natalie Mlibeu overwhelmed her opponent Cassie Bergeson 7-6, 6-7 and 1-0 to score JU a second victory.

The two paired up for a doubles match against FAU’s Marlene Ryan and Catalina Ene and won 8-3. Seniors Virginia Iwinski and Veronica Spencer then joined forces to square off against Erika Mrazkova and Natasha Phillips and took the match by a margin of 8-4.

Despite the bold start and an earned doubles point the Dolphins let slip four of their six matches for a final of 4-3.

JU Coach Justin Miles, formerly of Georgia Southern has brought a successful track record to both the men’s and women’s Dolphin squads. Miles spent nine years at his former post and mentored former players to great success on the court and in the classroom. If the women’s team can capitalize on the strengths displayed in the season opener and stay sharp going forward look for Coach Miles’ prior successes to translate to his new home court here at JU.

This Sunday the Lady Fins play host to Savannah State at 1 p.m. Full stats and schedule information are available on the JU Athletics page.

Both Men and Women Tennis Dominate Lipscomb

Photo by Grace Singer

This past weekend on Saturday March 26, the JU Men’s Tennis team registered an Atlantic Sun victory over Lipscomb University. Both the Dolphins and Bison’s were evenly matched in singles play, as they split the six matches. Extremely strong doubles play put JU in the driver’s seat for success. The doubles matches were very close as well but the combination of Jacksonville’s Jose Fantova and Larry Condez proved too much for Lipscomb. In the third doubles matchup Fernando Bano Lopez and Matthew Hansen combined for an 8-5 victory. These two wins came after LU won the first top seeded doubles matchup.

Both Condez and Hansen were able to win their individuals matchups as well. The freshman Condez won in two sets 6-4, 6-3 over the Bison’s Tanner Brown. Freshman Lance Lvovsky defeated Chad Pierron 6-3, 6-2 to knot up the singles matches with the Bisons. The men’s team will get back into the swing of things Wednesday, March 30. They will play host to Bethune-Cookman University at the Keith Watson Family Tennis Complex.

The Women’s Tennis team faced the same A-Sun opponent as the men this weekend, but was not as polite, as they steam rolled LU 6-1. JU absolutely dominated this matchup as they won the top five singles matches. They didn’t stop there, because when doubles got underway, the ladies proceeded to sweep that matchup too. Senior Eve Castaing led the charge once again for the Lady Fins with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win over Kara Jackson. She is now 7-0 in conference plays and has shown no sign of slowing down.

Castaing explained her own success of the teams great play so far this season.

“This year I feel very confident because our team is very close and it helps enjoy every match, we always have a lot of fun on the courts, and support each other, causing us all to do well,” Castaing said.

Gabriela Bartos joined in the action winning in two sets and improving her personal record to 11-3 on the year.  Freshman Flavia Nagayama and Natalia Melibeu both had great performances of their own. Neither of the ladies lost more than three games in three sets against LU. The singles matchups might has well been the end for the Bison’s, because JU did not even give them a chance come doubles matches. The sweep in doubles capped a very successful road trip through Tennessee with wins over Lipscomb and Belmont University. The Lady Fins plan to keep their hot streak going Friday, April 1, as Florida Gulf Coast University comes to town.

JU Men’s and Women’s Tennis

The Jacksonville University men’s and women’s tennis teams are ready to get back into the swing of things later this month. There is a new buzz surrounding this year’s teams because of the new head coach Justin Miles who was hired in September 2010, replacing former coach Shane Wood. Miles, who is from Georgia Southern University, has a new game plan and is offering a change of pace from years past.

“First off we want to get the kids fit, and working hard,” said Miles, speaking of his goals for the teams.

He added that he would like both teams to make the conference tournament and potentially win it all.

“He is a great coach,” said Lance Lvovsky, freshman at JU. “He makes us work hard and as a team towards achieving the best we can possibly be.”

Entering a new year, the men’s team plans to build on their fifth place finish in the conference standings last year, and hope to finish on top in the Atlantic Sun Conference. During fall matches, Sophomore Fernando Banos-Lopez played outstandingly at the United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southeast Regional, where he led the men’s tennis team. He won his first three matches in the tournament and made it to the top 16 before being ousted. His abilities show promise and a bright spot for the team that has five returning players, two transfers and two incoming freshman. They will open up the season with a match against University of Central Florida on Jan. 29 at home in the Keith Watson Family Tennis Complex.

The woman’s tennis team struggled last year finishing ninth in the ASC and missing the tournament. This past fall it looked as if things may have turned around for the better. The women played very well in October as Senior Eve Castaing led the team at the University of North Florida Fall Tennis Invitational. She won the entire “Singles A” tournament without dropping a set.

“There is definitely a new attitude within the team,” said Castaing who was a first team All-Conference performer last year. “We are more motivated and focused thanks to coach.”

The team has three returning players and three new players from Brazil.

“The team must stay healthy, but expects great things in 2011,” said Castaing in reference to the small size and depth of the team.

The women’s tennis team will play their first game Jan. 28 against Bethune-Cookman in Daytona, FL. Both the men and women’s tennis teams look poised for a run in the A-Sun.

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