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March 6, 2013

VSU tennis falls to Columbus State

VALDOSTA — Columbus State has two strong tennis teams this year. On Tuesday, they were too strong for Valdosta State.

Columbus State’s tennis teams defeated Valdosta State on Tuesday at the VSU Tennis Courts. The seventh-ranked Cougars and the sixth-ranked Lady Cougars won by identical 6-3 scores.

“They are a very good team,” Valdosta State head coach John Hansen said. “We knew that going in, and we knew we were going to have to play very good. ... They are some pretty good players.”

Despite the loss, Hansen believes his young teams, which are comprised primarily of underclassmen, are getting better.

“Absolutely,” VSU’s longtime head coach said. “Our (men’s) doubles was much better than it’s been all year, against a very good team. ... (These are) growing pains. But that’s the only way we’re going to get better. (After playing teams like this) the kids know exactly how good they have to be.”

“When (other teams) finish a match with us, they know they had to play,” Hansen added. “We’re forcing people to play good.”

The VSU men started well on Tuesday, winning two of the three doubles matches. Valdosta State’s No. 1 doubles team, Konstantin Kutschenko and Mario Navarro, defeated Marco Almorin and Olivier Simonet 8-5, while Tammo Haake and Sebastian Jasyk topped Quentin Rayniere and Gordan Divljak, the nation’s 10th-ranked doubles squad, 8-4, at No. 2 doubles. The Cougars took the No. 3 doubles match, with Adi Malicbegovic and Michael Trebuhov defeating VSU’s Joachim Schemm and Andrew Harvin 8-2.

But Columbus State won five of the six singles matches. Danilo Sardelli earned a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tammo Haake at No. 5 singles. Almorin, the nation’s No. 25 player, defeated Jasyk 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4. Divljak won 6-4, 6-3 over Schemm at No. 2, and Malicbegovic wrapped up the victory for Columbus State when he downed Harvin 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6. Rayniere earned a 7-6 (3), 1-6, 10-6 victory over Navarro at No. 3.

Kutschenko, the No. 11 player in Division II, was the lone Valdosta State player to win on Tuesday, defeating 24th-ranked Simonet 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the No. 1 singles match.

“Kutscho’s having a great year,” Hansen said. “He has an excellent chance to end up All-American. He’s been a shining spot (for us). He’s pretty steady.”

Columbus State’s women earned five of the first six points against VSU, and won 6-3.

The Lady Cougars started their match by winning two of the three doubles matches. At No. 1 doubles, the ninth-ranked team of Paola Cigui and Carolin Weikard topped Michelle Fischer and Alina Nagel 8-1, and Andrea Redrado and Renata Paiva defeated Jessica Tuggle and Jennifer Rink 8-5 at No. 3. Valdosta State’s Laura Ubeda and Julianna Boehm got a come-from-behind victory, 8-6, over Olivera Jokic and Laura Chapman.

Then Columbus State earned the first four points in singles to wrap up the win. Cigui, the sixth-ranked player in Division II, opened singles play with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Fischer at No. 1. Paiva topped Tuggle 6-4, 6-2 at No. 6. Jokic gave CSU the victory with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Rink at No. 3. Then 42nd-ranked Weikard defeated Nagel 6-3, 6-0 at No. 2.

“I was impressed with Columbus, especially at the top. Their girls are really good,” Hansen said. “(Cigui) may be the best player in the country.”

Valdosta State rebounded to win the final two singles points. Boehm claimed a 6-4, 6-0 win over Redrado at No. 5. Ubeda topped Chapman 6-4, 6-3 at No. 4.

Valdosta State plays a tough schedule nearly every season, and this year is one of its toughest. The Blazers have the top four teams in Division II on their schedule (Armstrong Atlantic State, West Florida, Lynn and Barry), as well as No. 7 Columbus State and six other teams ranked in the ITA Tennis Top 50 for Division II. They’ve also played the NAIA No. 1 team (Embry-Riddle). The Lady Blazers have five of the top 10 teams in Division II on their schedule, including the top two (Armstrong Atlantic and BYU-Hawaii).

On Saturday, Valdosta State will travel to Savannah to play Armstrong Atlantic State, which has the top men’s and women’s teams in Division II.

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