Fire Ant Tennis Ranked Nineteenth in the Country
Ranked Sixth in the Southeast and First in the Region
Sumter, SC (01/29/2018) — With the NJCAA Tennis season beginning shortly, ITA Tennis released their pre-season rankings and the USC Sumter men's team is ranked top in the nation.
The Fire Ants are ranked 19th in the country, 6th in the southeast and first in the region. The team is the favorite to qualify for the national tournament.
Team member Peter Kovats finished last semester as the number 23 player in the country and Jordan George finished 45th in the country in the fall.
"I expect big things from Kovats and George this season," Head Coach Alex Poda said.
Poda took the place of previous coach Sam Kiser. Before coming to USC Sumter, Poda helped lead the Coker College men's team to eight wins in 2017, including a win over Division I Citadel. Under his instruction, the Coker women's team won six matches, including four in South Atlantic Conference play.
"Our first two matches are against the school's that got me here. Last year, I had a wonderful learning opportunity at Coker College that prepared me to take the reins from Coach Kiser this year," Poda said. "Also, Coach Kriese at the Citadel has been a role model for me in the sport since I was a young kid attending his tennis camps at age 12 all the way through my college days. He taught me how to coach, structure practices and push players to their potential."
The Fire Ants open the season with an invitational tournament hosting Division I and II opponents like The Citadel and Coker College. The schedule also includes two nationally ranked Junior Colleges. The Fire Ants will host 13th ranked Eastern Florida State in March and will travel to 12th ranked Harford in April.
On February 24, the region match with Spartanburg Methodist will decide which team will represent the NJCAA in the national tournament. "We have that date circled," Poda said.
The goal for this year is without a doubt to win the national championship, and if the pre-season rankings are any indication at all, that is something that is certainly attainable given the talent on the squad.
"A player to keep your eye is Nick Neal, as he is in a position that matches often come down to wire, so he has the opportunity to be a large contributor this year," Poda added.
Poda intends to build on the strong foundation established by Coach Kiser, who revitalized the tennis team after a thirty-year hiatus.
"The biggest difference this year is depth. The difference between the last player in our lineup and the first has drastically decreased from last year, and that is with Kovats still in the number one position," Poda said. "We have added players in lower spots that can contribute and win important matches."
Poda also put a heavier emphasis on fitness this year. "Whether it is a 6:00 a.m. workout at the track or an extra sprint here or there, I believe we are one of the fittest teams in the country, regardless of level. That is a testament to how hard the team pushes one another," Poda said.
Poda, an Aiken, South Carolina native, holds a Bachelor's degree in microeconomics from Limestone College and a Master's of Science in College Athletic Administration from Coker College.
For a full listing of upcoming matches, rosters and news on the Fire Ant Tennis team, visit uscfireants.com.