02/03/10 — Similar in make up, Trojans should do well

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Similar in make up, Trojans should do well

By From staff reports
Published in Sports on February 3, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive College men's and women's tennis teams should be able to sustain the momentum generated by their respective late-season runs a year ago.

Four starters return for each squad.

Each team has a strong candidate for the top seed.

The incoming freshmen and transfers have shown their competitive edge in practice on the John Neal Walker courts -- MOC's home venue.

So, you can understand Dr. Burt Lewis' excitement about the Trojans, who open the season this weekend. Weather permitting, the men play a doubleheader Saturday against Campbell and Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The women launch their campaign Sunday at home against Francis Marion (S.C.) University.

"We're looking forward to hopefully what will be a good year," said Lewis. "We feel good about where we are talent wise. We feel good about our depth."

The Trojan men emerged victorious in five of their final seven matches of 2009. Alexander Queiros returns along with fellow Brazilians Diego Miranda, Murilo Pelegrino and Diego Sender. The "Diegos" were a formidable doubles team, while Queiros and Pelegrino steadily gained confidence at their respective singles seeds.

Lewis expects Queiros to seize the No. 1 slot.

Queiros doesn't quite share his coach's confidence ... yet. The lineup isn't solidified since preseason challenge matches have been tough to survive.

"The competition is better and everybody is trying to make the top six," said Queiros. "Everybody wants to play."

Mount Olive, which ended last year 9-14 overall, is picked to finish fifth in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll. The Trojans were just one of three teams to earn a first-place nod.

"Realistically, we're in the mix among five teams, I think, to finish number one," said Lewis.

Returning starter Jessica Souza, a senior from Brazil, hopes the Trojan women can go one step further this spring. Mount Olive earned a share of the 2009 Conference Carolinas regular-season title with Erskine and Lees-McRae.

The Trojans prevailed in seven of their last 11 matches, including an opening-round loss to Erskine in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional. Souza and Lewis contend the 2010 team is similar to last year and has plenty of room to grow.

"I think the experience (last year) showed us that we can get there because at the beginning of the semester last year we weren't as good as we were at the end," said Souza. "This year gives us a bigger challenge to go back and do the same thing we did last year. With the new girls we've got in, I honestly believe we can do it.

"We're not as good right now, but the same thing happened to us last year."

Souza earned all-tournament accolades last spring. Also returning are all-conference performers Camila Kurebayashi and Sofia Medeiros, who combined for a 13-5 record in conference singles action. Sophomore Pietra Viana is back for her second season.

Lewis plans to redshirt two players, leaving just enough bodies available for each match. However, the group -- like the men -- has improved each time its stepped onto the court.

Mount Olive, which logged a 12-11 record last season, was picked to finish third in the preseason Conference Carolinas poll. The Trojans picked up one first-place vote.