PREVIEW: @patriotstennis set to open season this weekend

Friday, February 3, 2017
by Nathan Wright

TYLER – The UT Tyler men and women’s tennis teams begin a new era this season.

For the first time since 2004, the teams will not be coached by Chris Bizot. Bizot resigned last month to take the women’s head coaching position at Division II Angelo State.

His replacement, former assistant coach Joe Vann, is excited about taking over the UT Tyler teams and continuing the programs’ success.

“It has been an interesting process since coach Bizot departed,” Vann said. “I think it is something good to have a familiar face for the kids as we go into the season. As far as what I expect, at this point, what I expect is what the kids expect – to continue to have a great season and move on.”

Both teams are coming off American Southwest Conference championships won last spring. Both teams have won the last three ASC tournament titles and both are picked to win their fourth consecutive titles this season.

“The women, we got in a couple of recruits to go along with some strong returning upperclassmen,” Vann said. “We did well winning conference last year and this year, we are looking to repeat with the same type of play.

“For the men, we have a really large incoming freshman class with a mix of American players and international. The level of play has been really high in practice and it looks really good.”

On the women’s side, Vann mentioned junior transfer from Midwestern State Alexis Arrieta as a potential No. 1 player. Also vying for that spot will be senior Tori Musngi, who played No. 2 last year.

“Alexis has been playing really well,” Vann said. “I think she will be a big impact for us. Tori has played relatively high her entire collegiate career. I am expecting some good things from her, this being her senior year.”

Sophomores Lauren Kuhn and Alexandra McKissick were both freshmen last season that Vann expects big things from this season as well.

The men’s team is led by Arthur Fagundes. Fagundes, from Brazil, was the first UT Tyler player to win the ITA regional championship in the fall. He was the first freshman in University history to advance to the national tournament in both singles and doubles.

He was named the ITA West Region Rookie of the Year and received the ASC Championship MVP after leading the Patriots to the 2016 title

Also returning are senior Joey Fischer and sophomore Pablo Gomez, who teamed up to advance to the ITA regional semifinals last fall.

“Joey seems to be hitting the ball really, really good,” Vann said. “With Pablo, they will be a strong core in doubles. They played really well last year and I think they will play really well again this year.”

For both the men and the women, Vann said as the team begins playing matches, his lineup will come more into focus.

The women’s team opens its season on Saturday at home against Dallas Baptist while the men open their season on Sunday against St. Edward’s in College Station. The ASC tournament is scheduled for the first weekend in May, at the East Division’s top seed for the men and the last weekend in April, at the West Division’s top seed for the women.

“The schedule for both teams is built really well,” Vann said. “We’ve got matches in February that should push us and see where we stand on our own team as far as creating different stuff. February is a good month for a lot of our warmup matches and stuff before we kick into Spring Break when we travel to Orlando.

“Then it will get real heavy for the men in April and for the women as well. Hopefully by that time, we are peaking and playing some of our best tennis and are ready to go from there into conference.”