Tennis season closes with win at Wofford invitational

By John Armstrong – jarmstro@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Nov. 19, 2014 |

The UNC Asheville men’s tennis team finished their fall season on a high at the Wofford invitational tournament last weekend with two Bulldogs winning their singles bracket, and two doubles teams making it to the finals.

John Schubel, senior captain, won his flight in the black singles and Thomas “Rusty” Panoulas, a junior, won his flight in the gold singles.

Schubel said the team began to realize its full potential when each player returned for the year.

“This is our best fall season I have seen in my years being here,” Schubel said.

In their previous season, the men fought hard against conference teams but fell short of victories.

“We got counted out because we didn’t have a great season last year. It was a transition period, but we definitely made an impact in the fall,” Schubel said.

The Bulldogs surprised many of the conference opponents in this past tournament especially with Panoulas’ win in the singles. In his first match against a Longwood opponent, Panoulas won two sets after losing the first.

“The next match was against a guy from Presbyterian, and he’s number one for them and I beat him two weeks in a row,” Panoulas said.

Despite playing with an injury, Panoulas went on to win his final match against Wofford.

“I was injured and couldn’t serve, so I had to overcome my injury,” Panoulas said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for me to stay healthy and being safe next semester.”

Panoulas is not the only player battling an injury.

Alex Croker, a junior, sprained his ankle during the last tournament at Winthrop and finished third in his flight. He sat out this tournament but continues to do all he can to become healthy again.

“We’ve been playing against other conference players in the tournament, and we have gained a lot of confidence and have worried a lot of teams,” Croker said.

According to Schubel, anything short of winning a conference tournament will be a disappointment for the team.

Last season, the team ran into problems deciding pairings for doubles matches.

“Last year, we were trying to figure out the pairs, but finally this year we have the pairs set up and we are as a unit on the court,” Panoulas said.

Croker and Brett Landau, junior, performed the best out of the double pairings, winning all-conference last year.

Croker said he wants them to try and get it again this season in addition to trying to be ranked for doubles in the NCAA.

“I believe Brett and I only lost one doubles match this fall,” Croker said.

According to Schubel, a player’s mindset has an important factor in their performance.

“When you’re on the court and start freaking out, it’s hard to perform well. You really have to make sure that you keep your head for you, and your team,” Schubel said.

Schubel said Tom Hand, head coach, kept the team focused on the things they can control, which helps with performance.

“You just have to stay competitive and never give up,” Panoulas said.

The Bulldogs host the conference tournament this spring.

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