Press Release for Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Lady Ospreys Ready for a New Season
Contact: Shawn LaFata, Interim Asst. Athletic Director
To say the University of North Florida women's tennis team has shaken things up for the 2009 season might be a bit of an understatement. After all, the team features four fresh faces and for the first time in program history has a head coach it can call its own.
Since the inception of the men's and women's tennis programs at UNF in 1984, the duties of both teams have been handled by a single coach. This season, Rodrigo Puebla takes the reins of the Lady Ospreys and can tag himself as the first women's tennis head coach in the program's history.
Though an individual head coach is new for the Lady Ospreys, Puebla certainly is not green to the team. For the past two seasons, he served as an assistant coach, working with both men's and women's tennis. He brings a successful head coaching career at Pikeville College, where he served as women's head coach and men's assistant for two seasons, into his tenure at UNF. Puebla tallied two consecutive conference tournament titles on his way to being named NAIA Region XII and Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading the Lady Bears to a No. 7 final ranking.
This season, Puebla says the Lady Ospreys will use the new coaching format to prepare for a quality schedule and make a run at the Atlantic Sun Conference title.
"Splitting the teams this season will allow both the men's and women's teams to work on a more individual basis," Puebla said. "With four new players on the team, it will be important to use that individual attention to quickly prepare the team for the pressures of collegiate tennis."
Dual play begins for UNF on the final day of January at Georgia Southern (1-1). One week later on Feb. 6, the Lady Ospreys make their home debut against Missouri-Kansas City before hosting Florida A&M two days later (Feb. 8). The UNF Tennis Complex will host 11 Lady Osprey matches this season, featuring non- conference matchups with Davidson (March 1), Tennessee-Martin (March 9) and Central Florida (April 4), on top of five Atlantic Sun Conference contests.
"I like our schedule this season," Puebla said. "We play a good number of teams that will be in the top-75 at some point during the season but should be very competitive against every team we play and could pull off some upsets."
Despite playing three of the four top-4 A-Sun teams on the road, Puebla thinks his team can make some waves in league play and finish higher than the preseason prediction of fifth place.
"Our team is deeper this season than it has been in the past several years," Puebla said. "If the newcomers can quickly learn and adapt to playing at the college level, we will be able to finish near the top of the conference. A key to our success will be the leadership of our two returners - Ina Durcakova and Victoria Krook."
Durcakova returns for her senior campaign while Krook will take the court as a sophomore. Both finished with A-Sun records above .500 in singles and doubles play and will be looked upon to direct the youth of the 2009 squad.
Joining Durcakova as the only other upperclassman on the squad, junior Raquel Castro comes to UNF after finishing an outstanding career at Central Florida Community College, which featured multiple MVP and athlete of the year honors. Sophomore Lauren Holton also joins the Lady Ospreys, having spent one year in school at Appalachian State.
Two freshmen round out the 2009 roster. Aline Berkenbrock and Nikita van Lierop are each expected to push for playing time near the top of the lineup and continue to add to the vivacity of the team.
"All of the girls have shown they want to work hard, and they all possess a strong work ethic," Puebla said. "The chemistry of these girls is excellent. Putting those two facets together, our season should be full of fun and success."
UNF (0-0) takes its first serve of 2009 at Georgia Southern (1-1) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Eagles found a rough go of things in their season opener, falling 7-0 at Georgia State. The team rebounded with a 4-3 win against A-Sun member Kennesaw State before beginning preparations for its home opener against the Lady Ospreys.
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