Feb. 19, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - New Fayetteville State tennis coach Gerard Winfrey returns to his alma mater with a few goals in mind.
His goals are progressive in nature and they all start with returning to the CIAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
"Our main goal at this point is to be invited to the CIAA championships," Winfrey said. "If we do well and get invited to the tournament, then our goal is to win the tournament or keep other teams from winning."
FSU, which finished last season 2-18 overall and 2-14 in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association play, opens its season at home against Winston-Salem State on Thursday at 1 p.m
This comes after the Lady Broncos' opening home match against North Carolina A&T was postponed until further notice due to the threat of inclement weather and Raleigh roundups against Bowie State and Virginia Union couldn't be played due to court conditions. Cold, rainy conditions have forced FSU to practice inside the Felton J. Capel Arena racquetball courts for much of the past two weeks.
"It really is tough," returning No. 2 singles player Taylor Norris said. "It's not that on-court feeling. You can do a lot of the same stuff but it's just not the same. The ball doesn't hit, it doesn't bounce the same. You aren't working with your doubles partner as much in the racquetball room. It's hard to sprint from side to side with the walls being so narrow."
There are two advantages that come with having to practice indoors, though. First, the quick bounces will test the Lady Broncos' ability to have quick reflexes. Secondly, FSU has the experience necessary to overcome such adversity.
Three players return to the Fayetteville State roster. The junior Norris (Grand Island, NE) is joined by juniors Samantha Ledbetter (Fayetteville, NC) and Laura Worriax (Mamers, NC). Freshmen Selena Cox (Wilmington, NC) and Vanaysha Graham (Tabor City, NC) and senior Taheiya Foster join the team for the first time.
Winfrey said Ledbetter will serve as his No. 1 singles player and Norris will step in at No. 2. Positions 3-6 are still to be determined, as are the doubles pairings.
Ledbetter, who won three singles matches a year ago, considers herself a teacher as much as a leader.
"I've been playing tennis for 10 years now," Ledbetter said. "I've taught tennis classes. I've played in high school, I've done a lot with tennis. I want to teach the girls how to get to the next level on their serve or get to the next level on their forehand or their backhand."
"I think I'm definitely prepared for this year. We've been working so hard to get here."
The Lady Broncos will play both at home and on the road against Livingstone, Shaw, Winston-Salem State and Johnson C. Smith. A Northern Division round-up is scheduled for March 14-16 in Petersburg, VA.