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Eastern Florida Women's Tennis Opens Inaugural Spring Season on Saturday

Feb. 5, 2014 - With regional and national rankings already to its credit Eastern Florida's women's tennis team opens its inaugural championship season on Saturday.

The Titans launch their season at home at 1 p.m. against Florida College System Activities Association and Region 8 foe Florida State College at Jacksonville, which is ranked seventh in the nation. The Titans will play their first-season home matches at the city of Melbourne's Jimmy Moore Tennis Complex at Sarno and Wickham roads while new courts are built on the Melbourne Campus.

The program, one of two added to Eastern Florida's roster in 2013 — the other being men's soccer — played an informal fall season that included one Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) event. Based on its performance Eastern Florida received an eighth-place ITA Region 4 ranking and a 16th-place national ranking in November.

Also, freshman Isabella Sella was ranked sixth in the region and 11th nationally while sophomore Kaila Cochran was ranked 16th regionally and 36th nationally. Freshman Hope Fellows was ranked 25th in the region.

For doubles Sella and Cochran were ranked fifth in the region and 10th nationally.

"It's pretty good considering we played a limited fall schedule and without a full team," head coach Chuck Jacobs said of the rankings.

"As for Isabella and Kaila, the notice is certainly deserved and welcome but also sets a high standard for the spring season.

"I named Kaila our captain," Jacobs added. "She has the most college experience and is a good mentor. She brings great intensity to every practice and does not let any of the players quit no matter how tough the practice or match is."

Joining Cochran of Indialantic, FL, Sella, of Valinhos, Brazil, and Fellows of Cocoa Beach on the roster are sophomore Kasey Love of Port Orange, FL and freshmen Laura Gorski of Palm Bay, FL and Erica Nielsen of Merritt Island, FL.

The No. 1 singles position is being contested between Love and Sella.

"Kasey has come back from her time off this fall with great fire and drive," Jacobs said. "She has beaten Isabella twice now in our practice matches. The rest of the team has been solidified with Kaila at No. 3, Hope at No. 4, Erica at No. 5 and Laura at No. 6. Doubles will be No. 1 Kaila and Isabella, No. 2 Kasey and Hope, No. 3 Erica and Laura."

Other FCSAA/regional foes Eastern Florida will be measured against are Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, and Broward College.

"We have 10 conference matches scheduled this season and I have challenged the players that we should come away with winning at least half of those contests," Jacobs said. "I have set the bar high for our first year and challenged the players to bring their best each and every day so that by the time our conference championship comes we are competing for one of the top three spots" which are automatic qualifiers for the national tournament.

"I am proud of the strides that we have made over a short period of time," Jacobs added. "The top 3, Kaila, Isabella and Kasey are putting in some good results and have really come out this spring with a fire. Our depth in the lineup will always be an area where we will continue to improve. I have already seen improvements from Hope, Erica and Laura and I know they want to continue to work hard and do well.

"The difference between fall and now is huge. The players are fitter, stronger and faster. They have seen the level of competition that is out there and have all come back hungry. We will continue to work hard on our doubles which is right now a weak point as we continue to develop our teams."

Carrying only six players on the roster also is a concern.

"We are taking a big risk with only six players this season," Jacobs said. "If the unfortunate situation happens and we have an injured player we will be going into every match down two points out of the possible nine."

Collegiate tennis matches consist of six singles and three doubles matches.

Overall, though, Jacobs is pleased.

"I think the players have bonded well," he said. "Even though they are playing as individuals I don't think that they would be able to do as well as they are without the team supporting them. They know that they are part of something special by being the first EFSC team to compete."

Jacobs is being assisted by Sam Stember.