02/06/04 — Lewis ready to reap benefits from recruiting

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Lewis ready to reap benefits from recruiting

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 6, 2004 2:00 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College men's and women's tennis coach Burt Lewis had a simple formula when he started recruiting for the 2004 season. Lewis searched for talented players who could add depth to a program which has steadily improved each season.

Lewis bolstered the men's roster with four new faces and added a single recruit on the women's side.

"I concentrated on adding depth and I feel that we accomplished that by bringing in some quality players," Lewis said.

The most noticeable addition to the men's team is junior Fernando Crisosto. A native of Santiago, Chile, he is currently ranked No. 10 in the region and 41st nationally in NCAA Division II singles play. Lewis projects Crisosto as the Trojans' No. 1 or 2 seed when the team opens its season Saturday against Johnson C. Smith University.

Camilo Sabogal led Abraham-Baldwin (Ga.) College to the national junior college championships last spring. Sabogal, a junior, should add significant depth to the roster.

Lewis expects to receive quality time from sophomore Rafael Bustos and freshman Renato Varella. Each will bring depth and strength to the Trojans' lineup.

That quartet joins a foursome which led Mount Olive to an 8-9 record and third-place finish in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference tournament last season.

Ibrahim Bouaabdalli returns for his senior campaign after earning all-CVAC honorable mention accolades a year ago. Fellow senior Juane Schutte has competed at the No. 1 or 2 slots each of the past three seasons.

"Ibrahim's presence in the lineup adds significant depth," Lewis said. "He has the potential to play at any position in the lineup. (Schutte), this year his experience allows him to play at any position."

Junior Christof Franzsen grabbed a spot on the CVAC all-tournament team a year ago.

"Christof is a very good doubles player who continues to make improvement every day he is on the court."

Lewis contends he's put together a team which has a good talent level, a solid blend of experience and youth along with considerable depth. However, with the four new additions, the group must grow into a cohesive unit.

CVAC coaches tabbed Mount Olive the fourth-best team in the league this year. One coach awarded the Trojans a first-place vote.

"We must blend the new players with the returning players into a cohesive unit," Lewis said. "If we can do that, I am excited about the possibilities of this team."

Sophomores Lucia Henkle and Mariana Shimoda are expected to help the women's team improve upon last season's opening-round loss in the CVAC tournament.

Henkle became just the second Trojan to earn Freshman of the Year honors last season. She played the No. 1 slot and experienced tremendous success against conference and non-conference opposition.

Shimoda picked up second-team all-CVAC honors a year ago.

Samanthi Wijesekera and Ashley Ashbrook return for their junior seasons, while Amanda Aycock is the lone senior on the six-player roster.

"Samanthi is a hard-working player who has improved greatly since last spring," Lewis said. "Westbrook is a hard-working player who has shown tremendous improvement since last spring.

"Amanda is playing better and better each day. These three players should provide good leadership for this team."

Lewis added Lauren Harris of Chesapeake, Va., to this year's team.

"She is a good player who has a lot of potential," Lewis said. "She will provide solid depth for us this season."

Mount Olive's women posted the program's second consecutive winning record (6-5) and third overall in the last four years in regular-season CVAC play. The Trojans ended up 8-12 overall.

Lewis thinks if the team's youth doesn't surface too often, Mount Olive could turn some heads on the court this season. The Trojans have a good talent base, better depth than a year ago and a team that should mature as the season progresses.

The CVAC coaches picked the Trojans to finish sixth.

"Considering the depth and quality of play in our league, I think those would be good accomplishments," Lewis said of each team's preseason ranking. "Our goals for both teams are, as always, to win the regular season and conference tournament.

"To do that, we will need to work hard and focus on one match at a time. I think both teams are as talented as any team that I have had here at Mount Olive."

The women open their season at home Feb. 14 against Francis Marion (S.C.)University.

Defending regular-season champion Anderson (S.C.) College is picked to win the men's title this season. The Trojans advanced to the NCAA regionals and finished 19th nationally with a lineup full of underclassmen.

Lees-McRae captured the CVAC tournament and is expected to challenge Anderson for regular-season supremacy. Barton was selected third, followed by Mount Olive and Pfeiffer University.

On the women's side, Barton earned six first-place votes.