Alex Poda's first season as the head coach of the University of South Carolina Sumter men's tennis team will come with some heavy expectations.
The Fire Ants will open their season ranked No. 19 in the country among junior college teams in the …
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The Fire Ants will open their season ranked No. 19 in the country among junior college teams in the ITA Tennis preseason rankings.
USCS is ranked sixth in the Southeast and first in Region X.
Sumter opens its season this weekend by playing host to four 4-year schools at Palmetto Tennis Center on Saturday and Sunday. The other teams are NCAA Division I school The Citadel and DII schools Coker, Erskine and Benedict.
Poda takes over for Sam Kiser, who stepped down after two years in charge of the restart of the program. Poda comes to USC Sumter from Coker, where he was an assistant coach for both the men's and women's teams.
"Our first two matches are against the school's that got me here," Poda said in a press release. "Last year, I had a wonderful learning opportunity at Coker College that prepared me to take the reins from Coach Kiser this year.
"Also, (head) Coach (Chuck) Kriese at the Citadel has been a role model for me in the sport since I was a young kid attending his tennis camps at age 12 all the way through my college days. He taught me how to coach, structure practices and push players to their potential."
Poda, who is also the school's women's head coach, takes over a team that has a couple of key players returning. Peter Kovats finished last semester as the No. 23 player in the country and Jordan George finished 45th in the country in the fall.
"I expect big things from Kovats and George this season," *Poda said.
Poda thinks the strength of the team goes beyond Kovats and George.
"The biggest difference this year is depth," he said. "The difference between the last player in our lineup and the first has drastically decreased from last year, and that is with Kovats still in the No. 1 position. We have added players in lower spots that can contribute and win important matches."
The rest of the roster includes Matthew Cottone, Nicklaus Neal, Albert Smreczac, Felip Stevanovic, Ephriam Utley and Leonardo Zancheta.
The schedule also includes two nationally ranked JC teams. The Fire Ants will play host to 13th-ranked Eastern Florida State in March and will travel to 12th-ranked Harford in April.
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