Tennis finishes season third in A-Sun

Spinnaker

With five losses in the season and only two in conference play, the UNF women’s tennis team has completed its most successful season in three years.

“Overall, the season went better than expected,” head coach Rodrigo Puebla said.

The Ospreys, who finished with an overall record of 16-5 and tied for third in the Atlantic Sun Conference, were also able to overcome cross-town  conference rival Jacksonville University despite missing a player.

Since UNF did not have a replacement player, it had to forfeit a point before play even began.

Freshman Nikita Van Lierop was not cleared by the sport’s physician, after fainting a few hours before the match, but she is now back to normal. She performed in the season-ending road trip to Miami to play against Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities, Puebla said.

UNF was down 3-2 with two matches to go, when JU fell apart and allowed the Ospreys to sneak out with a victory and bring home the rumble point. Last year, JU won the rumble point.

“Winning the rumble point was extremely important,” Puebla said.  “It’s something we look forward to every year,” and to be able to overcome down a player was very nice.

The reason no substitute was available for the missing player was the team had six players instead of eight as in previous seasons, he said.

Of the 10 other teams in the Atlantic Sun conference, eight of those schools had more women tennis players on their rosters than UNF.  JU had five women on its roster, and Florida Gulf Coast had six.

Puebla said since it was his first season with the Ospreys, he did not want to bring in too many new players and even though the team is only losing one player, he is now making recruiting his top priority.

Puebla said the key players had good matches this season, but it took the team as a whole to “mold together.”

But individual effort did not go unnoticed this season as two players received A-Sun player of the week awards. Freshman Aline Berkenbrock was a recipient of the award for outstanding singles play against University of Central Florida that led to a match-clinching win. Lauren Holton also received the award earlier in the season after conference wins against Lipscomb University and Belmont University . Junior Raquel Castro won nine of her last 10 matches and leads the conference in No. 2 wins.

“We will be contenders for the A-Sun championship next year,” Puebla said, “but our goal is to get into the national tournament.”

E-mail Josh Gore at [email protected]