The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men’s tennis team is set to begin its spring 2021 dual match season this weekend. The Mocs start off the year on the road at Clemson in the Duckworth Classic on Saturday, Jan. 16.
First serve is set for 1:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) at the Duckworth Family Tennis Center in Clemson, S.C.
Information and links on live scoring will be added to the men’s tennis schedule page on GoMocs.com when it becomes available.
UTC is coming off a fall campaign that included the rare opportunity to play four events. Not many programs across the county saw that much action during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although it has been an expected different start than most spring seasons, this team came in ready to prepare after the long break,” stated UTC head coach Chuck Merzbacher. “Having Clemson and Alabama to start the season is super motivating for us.”
It will be 311 days between dual matches for the Mocs after the 2020 season was shut down due to the pandemic. Chattanooga was 12-6 overall following a 5-2 loss at North Florida on March 11, 2020.
A lot has changed for UTC, but the Mocs still return a core of four starters, including senior Turner Voges, sophomores Tomas Rodriguez and Kerim Hyatt and freshman Jeffrey Dewald. The NCAA granted blanket participation waivers for all spring sports, so each letter winner returns to the same class they were in for the 2019-20 season.
Rodriguez led the Mocs with a 9-2 singles record in the fall. He is coming off a 23-8 singles mark from last season, including a 14-2 tally at No. 2. Hyatt, the 2019 SoCon Freshman of the Year, was 8-8 at No. 3 last season. Dewald went 13-3 at No. 5, while Voges was 3-2 at No. 6.
Gone from the lineup are seniors Niklas Gerdes and Simon Bustamante. Both graduated and returned home to start their professional careers outside of tennis. Gerdes was having an outstanding year with a 22-5 record and a 15-2 mark at No. 1. Bustamante finished the shortened spring with a 10-2 record at No. 5.
Other returners for the Mocs include juniors Kaisei Kuroki, Cooper Long, Jacob Marshall and Luke Plaisted, sophomore Bo Nash and freshman Quinten Nevenhoven. Marshall saw the most action of this group, including a 7-4 mark in duals with a 4-3 record at No. 6.
New faces to the team include sophomore Simon Labbe and freshmen Peyton Gatti and Jordan McClure. Labbe transferred from East Carolina after the Pirates cut their men’s tennis program. He and Rodriguez led the Mocs with a 7-2 doubles mark in the fall. Gatti is a four-star recruit from Whispering Pines, N.C., while McClure is a three-star prospect from nearby Tunnel Hill, Ga.
“I’ve been pleased with our practices,” added Merzbacher. “I really like our depth in singles and doubles, as we will rely on that to be in this match. It will be great to play as a team again, as we all know this year has not been easy and we appreciate anytime we have an opportunity to compete.”
The Mocs are 0-2 all-time against Clemson. They lost to the Tigers 5-4 on March 8, 1977 and again 9-0 on March 6, 1978. Both previous meetings were in Clemson, S.C. The Tigers were 7-6 last year and are under the direction of second-year head coach Robbie Weiss.
After the Clemson match, UTC travels to Alabama for a dual on Friday, Jan. 29, in Tuscaloosa. The Mocs' first home contest is Saturday, Feb. 6, against Austin Peay.