By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
After a record setting year for ACU tennis last spring, head coach Hutton Jones reloaded his arsenal with a talented class of freshmen for the 2005-06 year.
Last year the women’s team finished with a school record 31 wins and the men finished with one of the highest final rankings in Jones’ nine years after being upset in the regional finals.
The women advanced to the national tournament, where they lost in the first round to Lynn University and finished the season ranked eighth in the Division II national poll. Jones lost three players from singles play and three from doubles, but recruited five women to fill the void.
“I feel like we’re bringing in five girls who are really strong players,” Jones said.
With the loss of five players from last year’s team, and such a big freshman class, some might say that this could be a down year for the Wildcats.
“A clichŽ might be that this is a rebuilding year,” Jones said, “but I’m not going to buy into that. I feel like we’ve got the talent. We were dominant in region and conference and I still expect to do that.”
Artin Tafazoli was selected to the all-American team last year as a senior and is now a graduate assistant for Jones. Tafazoli is the first men’s tennis all-American for ACU in seven years, and he is the only man not returning from last year’s team.
“We’re adding several new players,” Jones said. “It’s a great problem for the coach because these are all really talented players. Where everyone else will end up, I won’t know that until mid-spring.”
Even with the loss of an all-American, Jones says that he expects his team to be better than his 2004-05 squad.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think we could be better than last year, I really do,” Jones said. “I expect to be better than last year.”
The players’ first chance to compete this year is Sept. 9-10 when ACU hosts the ACU Wal-Mart Open.
Jones says he’s optimistic about his team.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Jones said. “I think it’s going to be fun.”