DeLand, Fla. - The Stetson women's tennis team, entering its first season under the leadership of Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote since 1999, opens its spring season this Saturday, February 11th at 12:00 pm vs. Florida A&M at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
Pilote, who is also in his 18th season as head coach of the Stetson men's tennis squad, earned a promotion to Director of Tennis with oversight of both programs in May 2011 when three-time A-Sun Women's Tennis Coach of the Year Sasha Schmid was named head coach at Missouri. Pilote previously coached the Stetson women's tennis squad for two seasons in 1998-99 while simultaneously leading the Hatter men as well.
The Hatters are relatively young this year, featuring just one senior, Shannon Gunning (Boca Raton, Fla.), among the eight women on the team. Gunning won 12 singles matches and 17 doubles matches a year ago. As the veteran, the 2011 Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree tries to lead by example.
"I have been here for three years, and I want to be able to show the new girls the ropes, and portray what being a Stetson Hatter means," said Gunning. "One thing I think the girls should know is that they should always come to the court with a positive attitude."
Gunning's usual doubles partner, sophomore Lindsey Cable (Gainesville, Fla.) won 17 single matches a year ago as a freshman en route to All-Atlantic Sun Second Team and All-Freshman Team honors. In addition to Cable, there are two other sophomores: MayaBlue Stauffer-McDowell (Asheville, N.C.) and Diana Bukajeva (Riga, Latvia). Bukajeva transferred to Stetson from Saint Mary's College, where she defeated doubles pairs from Stanford and USC last season. Stauffer-McDowell managed to win 13 singles matches and 12 doubles matches a year ago for the Hatters, landing on the A-Sun All-Freshman Team along with Cable.
This is a roster that also features three juniors: Jen Miller (Tampa, Fla.), Sara Lazarevic (Calgary, Alta.) and Clarke Tatje (Eustis, Fla.). Miller won five singles matches a year ago, including a win over a player from 44th-ranked USF. The other two juniors are both transfers: Lazarevic from Kansas and Tatje from Rollins College. Lazarevic won five singles and 11 doubles matches, while Tatje won 14 singles matches, and two doubles matches in 2011.
Freshman Rachel Luke (Virginia Beach, Va.) will challenge for playing time as well for Pilote's squad. Luke helped lead her First Colonial High School squad to the Group AAA state championship in 2011.
"The team we have is not young, it is just new because of three transfers," Pilote said. "The newcomers come from high level programs and have a lot of experience; they will be able to help us right away."
Of the 22 matches the Hatters will play this season, exactly half of them will be played at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center. Stetson will host four conference matches as well as major conference foes Michigan State, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.
The road matches will see the Hatters go up against defending Atlantic Sun Champion ETSU (March 23rd), 70th-ranked defending Southern Conference champion College of Charleston and reigning MEAC champion South Carolina State.
"Playing a tough schedule is important to get us ready for the postseason," coach Pilote said. "We have a lot to show, and this team is ready to make an impact. The team's energy is evident everyday at practice."
Live Scoring for home tennis matches at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center will be available at GoHatters.com.
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