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Women's Tennis enters 2014 with plenty of optimism

Blue Raiders open season against Evansville on Saturday

January 23, 2014 · @MTAthletics

There is a new look for Middle Tennessee women's tennis this season and Coach Shelley Godwin's confidence is at an all-time high as she enters her third year in control of the program.

During Godwin's first two years, her teams have combined for 27 victories, which is the second most in program history during a coach's first two years. This year the Blue Raiders welcome three new faces coupled with four veterans from 2013.

THE PERSONNEL

The Blue Raiders had a very productive fall, in which four individuals claimed six-plus victories. Junior Nayara Moraes put together an impressive 10-4 fall campaign, which saw her reach the finals of the back draw at the ITA Regionals. Returning senior Flavia Nagayama posted a 9-4 mark.

"I was very pleased with our efforts during the fall season," Godwin said. "Fall tournaments are always a grind as each tournament provides the girls with ample match play. Nayara Moraes really stepped up and led the team throughout the fall with the way she competed. We will continue to look to her this spring as a leader on court with her gutsy efforts."

In addition to Moraes and Nagayama, MT returns sophomores Irina Constantinide and Alexandra Torres. Constantinide, a native of Romania, picked up 20 wins in her rookie season. Torres snatched seven wins in 2013.

The Blue Raiders welcome a pair of transfers, Jesse Grace from Tennessee and Tiffany William from Auburn Montgomery. Grace was part of a Lady Vols squad that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. Meanwhile, William produced a 41-6 record in two seasons as AM won a pair of NAIA National Championships. Freshman Sarah Sediri comes as a highly touted player from Montreal, Quebec after claiming Quebec doubles titles in 2012 and 2013.

"Our three newcomers, Tiffany, Jesse and Sarah, have done an excellent job transitioning into our program," said Godwin. "They have each brought a new energy level and competitive dimension to our team in addition to adding much needed depth to the lineup. We have just one senior this year in Flavia Nagayama and she will be looked to for leadership on and off the court during the season. She has been a key piece in our lineup throughout her career and is ready to finish strong this spring."

SETTING THE SCHEDULE

And that new energy level will need to kick in soon. The Blue Raiders will play 12 of its 19 games on the road or at neutral sites in its inaugural Conference USA season.

Middle Tennessee opens up the year against Evansville on Saturday, while facing road matches next week at Samford (Feb. 1) and UAB (Feb. 2). MT then returns home for contests against Austin Peay on Feb. 7 and Lipscomb on Feb. 9. From there, the Raiders visit Johnson City Feb. 14-15 for matches versus ETSU and Winthrop.

A pair of in-state foes in Chattanooga (Feb. 22) and Tennessee State (Feb. 28) visit the Blue Raiders before Middle Tennessee takes on C-USA foe LA Tech on March 1. MT hosts Jackson State on March 7 before a three-match road trip, March 10-14, in South Florida against Boston University, Barry University and Florida Atlantic.

Senior Day is set for March 23 when the Raiders welcome Troy in an 11 a.m. contest. MT closes out the regular season at Charlotte, UNCG, UT Arlington and Texas State. This year's Conference USA Championship is hosted by Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.

"We are excited to kick off the spring as we begin our first season in Conference USA," Godwin said. "C-USA hosts some of the top teams in the country so we have been working hard to raise our level to meet the new challenges we will face."

SEASON OPENER

Middle Tennessee opens the 2014 season this Saturday at 3 p.m. against Evansville inside the Nashboro Village Athletic Club. The Purple Aces and Blue Raiders meet for the first time since 1991. Last season, the Aces finished the year 10-11 overall and 3-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

There will also be new experimental rules that will take place early in the season. These rules will allow doubles teams to reach six instead of an eight-game pro set. Additionally, there will be no-advantage scoring.

"The team has been hard at work for the past two weeks preparing for our match against Evansville," Godwin noted. "With the trial period of the new rules changes in place for first part of the season it is going to be important for the girls to come out focused from the first point in singles and doubles. The doubles point will go much quicker as it has been shortened from an eight-game pro set to one normal six game set. Also, singles matches will now consist of a match tiebreak in lieu of the third set."

Live stats and Twitter updates for this weekend's match will be available online at GoBlueRaiders.com and @MT_WomensTennis.

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