USCL tennis nets top 25 ranking

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Men's team in nationals

By The Staff

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) announced the final rankings for the NJCAA 2011 season and the USC Lancaster Lancers finished No. 24th in the country.

This is the school’s first national ranking and it comes on the heels of the team’s trip to the national championship at Collin College in Plano, Texas.

 USCL competed in Texas during the week of May 16-20 and was among 26 other schools vying for the national title.

USCL scored five points during the week, which tied them for 23rd overall along with Lewis and Clark Community College.  The tournament is set up differently than NCAA national championships in that the events are flighted, not team verse team.

For example, USCL’s number one player, Pedro Rodriguez, competed in a draw against all the other school’s No. 1 players.

Every match won by him earned points for the Lancers’ team.

Therefore, there were six singles draws and three doubles draws.  Earning points for the Lancers were Justin Lewis in the two singles flight and Joey Martin in the six singles flight.  The Lancers also earned points in the No. 1 doubles flight, as the team of Rodriguez and Lewis won two matches in the back draw.

“We had some guys really step up and play some of their best tennis of the season,” said Lancers’ head coach Brian Clark. “The competition was strong, but I feel our schedule during the year was able to prepare us for what we saw in Texas.”

The Lancers also had two players ranked in the top 50 in the final singles rankings.

Rodriguez finished the year ranked No. 25 and Justin Lewis ended up ranked 47th.

Lewis earned a win in the first round of the national championship over Shannon Nelson of Mesa CC (Ariz.) 6-4, 6-3. He drew the top seed in the next round, Michael Tymkiw of host Collin College, and lost a hard-fought match, 6-2, 6-3.

Rodriguez’ best result during the year was probably a loss to Georgia Perimeter College’s No. 1 player, Salif Kante, 6-2, 6-3.  Kante won the No. 1 singles flight in Texas and finished the year the No. 1 ranked player in the country.

The No. 1 doubles team of Rodriguez and Lewis finished the year ranked 28th in the country.

This was a great result for this team as the two did not start playing together until late in the season.  “They complemented each other well, which is essential for any good doubles team,” Clark said.

In Texas, after losing their first round match to a seeded team from Scottsdale CC (Ariz.), the team won two straight matches.

The Lancers’ duo beat New Mexico Military Institute’s No. 1 team 6-4, 6-4 and then followed with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Gadsden State’s No. 1 team. They were knocked out in the semifinals of the back draw by McHenry County’s No. 1 team 2-6, 7-5, 10-3.

“This experience showed us that we can compete at the highest level in NJCAA,” Clark said. “My hope is that this tournament springboards our team into the 2011-2012 season.  We can do better if we work harder and are willing to go the extra mile in every practice, workout, and match.”

The Lancers’ tennis team begins practice Aug. 22.

The team has six players returning from this past season and currently has seven incoming freshmen who will join the team.

The USCL team will again have a strong schedule as it looks to add Division I schools during the fall and spring seasons. The team will also be pursuing its second Region X championship in 2012.

The Lancers defeated Spartanburg Methodist to win the Region X crown and earn their trip to Texas earlier this spring at the J.P. Richards Complex.

 USCL defeated the SMC Pioneers for their first Region X championship with a 6-3 win.