HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The Coker College men's team surprised a few people with its run in the conference tournament a year ago. This season, however, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Cobras playing deep into April again.
"I really enjoyed our run last year," said head coach Tom Simpson. "I don't think we are under-the-radar anymore. But that's a good thing. We need to prepare and expect to win now."
The Cobras reached the semifinals of the Conference Carolinas tournament, falling to Limestone College. They finished the 2012 season with a 6-4 regular-season record in the conference. James Corfield, a junior, is the lone returning player. He compiled a 7-3 mark at singles during conference play and a 14-8 record at doubles in 2012.
"James will set the tone for us, as he has the most experience and is a very solid player," Simpson said. "Our crop of incoming players is a really talented bunch, too. Finding the right mix is going to be key, but that's my favorite part of coaching."
The second-year coach hit the recruiting trail hard during the offseason. Corfield is now the only player on the roster who was not recruited by Simpson.
"This season I was able to get a full year in for recruiting," Simpson said. "This feels more like my own team. I am beyond excited to work with these wonderful players and have a great year."
"The newcomers have been putting in extra time outside of practice, which is great," Simpson said. "The majority are adapting to the college game for the first time, so the fact that they are setting the tone with their work ethic speaks volumes."
Looking at this year's schedule the Cobras face some tough competition. They have matches against six out of seven nationally ranked teams in Division II. Simpson is aware this season will be tough, but he is aiming for some big upsets.
"I know that our schedule will be difficult, but I also know that if the players continue putting in the hard work there's a chance we could knock off one of the ranked teams," he said. "That's something I am looking to do this season."
Overall, it is looking to be a positive season for the men's tennis team. While upsets are always welcome, making it to the conference tournament is tops on the to-do-list.
"With the talent we have on the team, I think that's an achievable goal," said Simpson. "Last year, the men got to the semifinals, so I am looking to improve on that this year. I think we can make some noise in the conference. We will be ready for everyone."
The men's team opens with a dual match Feb. 2 at Anderson University.