Blog 10 – Georgia Men’s Tennis Early Signees
By Kendra Hansey
Four early signees for the Georgia men’s tennis program have been formally announced.
Nathan Ponwith, Robert Loeb, Alex Phillips and Alex Diaz have all signed a national letter of intent to join the Bulldogs in 2016.
“They’ve done a great job of trying to get the best signees each year,” said senior Ben Wagland. “I know last year we had the No. 1 recruit in the country///WHO WAS THIS?/// and again we just signed him this year.”
Ponwith is ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the nation and Loeb sits at the nation’s No. 11.
Standing at No. 17 in the national rankings, Phillips has been acquainted with Georgia men’s tennis head coach Manny Diaz since he was eight///STYLE ERROR/// years old.
Diaz, a five-star recruit and the No. 4 player in the state of Georgia, is the son of coach Diaz. His brother Eric played at Georgia for four years.
Although this season is not over, senior Austin Smith was excited about the announcement of his new teammates and said he does not think the addition of four freshman will be too challenging for the program.
“I don’t think it’ll be too much of a transition period as a team,” Smith said about next season. “I think we’ll be ready to battle. We’re all looking forward to it. We’ll be good to go.”
Smith, in his younger years, trained with Phillips and has already gotten the chance to get to know him well.
As a senior, Smith accepts the responsibility of being a mentor for all of the incoming team members, but also places that duty on the team as a whole.
“Since I’m an older guy, I think I’m one of the guys who has the image of that [being a mentor],” Smith said. “It’s as much as my responsibility as it is as a team. I’ll do my part. I know I’ve been here as long as anyone else has. Anything I can do, they’ll know that I’m always there if they want to talk about anything or are struggling.”
According to Smith, some of those struggles may include balancing the new rigorous levels of classes and tennis.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they deal in the spring with school and everything and tennis at once,” said Smith. “Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to fall in the off-season or individual season more. It’ll be a quick transition, but I think with our team and everything, we’re all going to do our best to make sure that they’re comfortable and I don’t think that will be a problem.”
“When they get on board, I know the older guys here and definitely Austin and I will be there to help them,” Wagland said.
Members of the new class will start at the University of Georgia as early as January 2016.
Edited by Emily Greenwood
Blog Post 9: Georgia Tennis Podcast
By Minh Nguyen and Kendra Hansey
Blog Post 8: Georgia Volleyball Podcast
By Emily Greenwood and Caleb Saffo
Blog Post 7:
Lady Bulldogs Swim Team Looks to Reach its Potential Against Rival Florida
By James Caleb Saffo
The University of Georgia Swimming and Diving//STYLE ERROR — LOWERCASE// program got off to great//SOUNDS LIKE A PRESS RELEASE// start winning its season opener at home against North Carolina, with both the men’s and women’s teams posting wins, and now the Bulldogs prepare for Georgia-Florida.
No, not that Georgia-Florida. Georgia begins conference play on Oct. 10 against their//GRAMMAR ERROR// cross-state rival, and although it isn’t as high-profile an affair as the football variation, every coach at the university will tell you how important it is for their team to beat the Gators, no matter the sport. Every coach, that is, other than men and women’s swimming head coach Jack Bauerle.
“It’s another meet, and we won’t prepare any differently for Florida than we do for anyone else. And they do the same for us. We have a very, very huge respect for each other,” said Bauerle. “It’s just a good, old-fashioned meet.”
Both the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs will face Gators squads looking to right the ship//CLICHE// after being swept by Texas and Indiana last weekend.
“I’m real proud–and relieved.//ABOUT WHAT?// But this will be a whole different challenge,” Bauerle said. “Florida’s probably a little bit better [than Emory] on both sides, but it’ll be a hell of a meet. “
The last time the women’s teams faced was when Georgia claimed its fifth straight conference title in the SEC Championships.//TWO STYLE ERRORS — SPELL OUT SEC ON FIRST REFERENCE AND LOWERCASE CHAMPIONSHIPS// Bauerle thinks that the upcoming match-up against their//GRAMMAR ERROR// inter-conference rival will be an indicator of what is to come in SEC play.
“Yeah, it’ll probably give us a little idea of where we stand,” Bauerle said. “But it’s a long haul. It’s sort of like playing that first football game, you know, you got a little way to go.”
The swimmers agree that the meet//WHICH MEET?// was a good indicator of their potential, and noted that it had an added bonus for them.
“It helped the freshmen ladies get the jitters out,” said senior swimmer Annie Zhu. “It was a good gauge for us to really see where we stand in the beginning so that we can be a hundred times better by SECs and NCAAs.”
This meet will be accompanied by a quick turnaround, as the Lady Bulldogs face rival Georgia Tech just five days after the upcoming meet, but Bauerle says he thinks the team is ready for the early season challenge that the schedule presents.
“I think we were pretty tough and that’s gonna serve us well,” said Bauerle. “I just want us to swim up to our potential, and it looks to me, the way they approached that the first time, I like the character of the team so far.”
Edited by Minh Nguyen
Blog Post 6:
Georgia soccer off to a rough start in the 2015 season
By Minh Nguyen
The Georgia soccer team is having a season to forget. Under first-year head coach Billy Lesesne, the Bulldogs are 3-9-1 on the season, which is a major drop off compared to last season when the team went 9-2-1 through its first 12 games.
“It’s been a tough season up to this point,” said sophomore goalkeeper Louise Hogrell. “As a freshman last season, I was able to experience success right away, so going through the struggles of this season has been a learning experience.”
With any transition to a new coach, there will be major growing pains. Rarely can a team expect to experience immediate success so the team record up to this point isn’t out of the norm.
“It’s definitely been a process this season,” said Lesesne. “The wins haven’t been coming as often as we would like, but the girls continue to work hard.”
Coach Lesesne has tried different methods from changing the team’s formation to a 4-2-3-1 to switching players around to different positions.
“Coach’s game plan hasn’t produce///D/// the victories thus far, but we are getting more familiar with every game,” said sophomore forward Kelsey Killean. “With more familiarity, I know the wins will start to come.”
The Bulldogs are beginning to gain momentum with two wins out of their last four. Both of those wins were against Southeastern Conference opponents. Most notably, the Bulldogs defeated then
ranked No. 4 Texas A&M 2-1 at home, which was also their first conference win of the season.
“Those were big wins for us,” said Lesesne. “We are better than our record indicates and showed it against Texas A&M.”
The Bulldogs will look to finish the season strong before they head into the SEC tournament at Orange Beach, Alabama, on November 2th.///STYLE ERROR/// The team’s remaining four games consist of all SEC teams beginning with a home game against Alabama this Friday.
Edited By Kendra Hansey
Blog post 5:
Georgia’s dynasty women’s swimming team enters season with only four seniors
By Caleb Saffo
The University of Georgia women’s swimming team is in a state of transition going into this season, which begins on Oct. 10.
The source of that opinion? Head coach Jack Bauerle.
“Right now we are not the team we were last year until some of our swimmers sort of rise up,” ///HEAD COACH JACK/// Bauerle said. “We have a big loss of depth and that’s gonna hurt us for a little while.”
The team, once lauded for its depth, is now thin on upperclassmen, following the graduation of its seniors after last season, in which the Bulldogs finished second to California///STYLE ERROR (NEED MORE COMPLETE NAME)/// in the championship meet.
Georgia has finished first or second at nationals five seasons in a row, which will be difficult to continue with the losses of key senior contributors Amber McDermott, Maddie Locus and Lauren Harrington.
“We lost a lot of good seniors–actually a heck of a lot of really good seniors. It might’ve been the best senior class we’ve ever had,” said Bauerle.
The team now has only four seniors on a 28-woman roster, but both the seniors and
coach Bauerle ///SAID THEY/// expect everyone to step up and provide the necessary leadership.
“I think as a senior everybody’s in a little different position. You have a little more responsibility to lead the team in the right direction,” said senior Brittany MacLean. “But I think the younger kids have done a good job settling in and doing their part.”
There is an added incentive that the swimmers also have to consider while they compete this year: the Rio 2016 Olympics. The Olympics are looming, and the season will also prepare them for the approaching trials.
“I think there’s a little extra pressure this year with it being Olympics year,” said MacLean. “And there are a lot of athletes here that have a really good shot of going to the Olympics, so that adds a little bit extra for everybody.”
“Olympic trials are always on everyone’s minds here, including the coaches,” said Bauerle.
This will be another opportunity for
coach Bauerle personally. He has 287 career wins, and will have the chance to win his 300th this season–and he is very blunt about whether that will also be in the back of his mind.
“It’s important to me. I’ll just be flat-out with it,” Bauerle said.
First priority for this team, however, is North Carolina, whom the Bulldogs face on Saturday. The Tar Heels are ranked ninth in the CSCAA Coaches Poll,///STYLE ERROR/// and they will try to hand Georgia just its second home loss in the history of the Gabrielsen Natatorium, which was opened in 1995.
“North Carolina is a very difficult first meet,” Bauerle said. “Year in and year out one of the ACC powers.”
Bauerle expects that, in spite of their///GRAMMAR ERROR/// youth, that this team will continue the program’s tradition of success.
“We feel really good about this group, because they’re seasoned, and they race well,” Bauerle said. “So we’ll just see what the heck we have here.”
Edited by Kendra Hansey
Blog post 4:
Georgia women’s tennis’ Drake Bernstein makes the jump from student to coach
By Kendra Hansey
With a promotion this past June, 26-year-old Drake Bernstein enters the upcoming 2015-2016 as the youngest women’s tennis associate head coach out of the programs currently ranked in the top 10.
A long time member with the University of Georgia tennis program, Bernstein served as the assistant coach for the women’s team the past three seasons. During this sketch///WORD CHOICE///, the team achieved three straight top five finishes and captured two SEC///STYLE ERROR/// championship titles.
“I feel like a lot of our recent successes are due to the fact that he’s come in and embraced Georgia and taught these guys what the Georgia way is all about,” says women’s head coach Jeff Wallace.
Not only has Bernstein coached at the University of Georgia, but he played for the men’s tennis team from 2007-2011. During his playing tenure at Georgia, Bernstein was one of only 14 players in Bulldog history to win over 100 matches, along with being a part of the 2008 national championship team his freshman year. Most notably, he was Co///LOWERCASE///-captain his senior year where///WHEN/// he earned All-SEC Second Team honors and awarded the Dick Copas Leadership Award.
“Drake was the kind of athlete that was very much a leader,” says men’s tennis head coach Manny Diaz. “He was very willing to take over and show the younger players what was expected of them and what our program is about.”
With Bernstein only a couple of years older than his athletes, it was important for him to establish the line between coach and friend. Having observed his former
s coaches Diaz and Will Glenn during his time as a player, Bernstein has drawn upon those experiences.
“Trying to model myself after them when I came across bumps in the road, they were always the first people that I called,” says Bernstein about defining the line.
As a former player, Bernstein has a great understanding of tennis, which resonates with his athletes because they can relate to Bernstein’s strategies.
“He’s given a lot of great tips,” says sophomore Ellen Perez. “He’s got a lot of experience being a player himself. I think he can really relate to me on the court and I think that really helps and goes a long way.”
Additionally, Junior Caroline Brinson noted Bernstein’s mental strength as a former player.
“Drake is really strong in the mental aspect of tennis,” says Brinson. Obviously, he was a very good player himself. He had a really good idea of how to control a match from the mental side of things.”
Prior to his coaching time at Georgia, Bernstein coached at “No Quit Academy” in Las Vegas immediately following his college graduation in May 2011. After four months, Bernstein transitioned to Alabama and joined the coaching staff for one year as the assistant women’s coach.
During his single season at Alabama, Bernstein helped the school reached a final ranking of No. 11 in the country. This was the highest national ranking in the program’s history.
Bernstein’s leadership skills and winning capability will be tested this season as Georgia graduated senior captain Lauren Herring last season. Georgia now boasts a roster consisting of five sophomores and two upperclassmen.
Edited by Minh Nguyen
Blog Post 3
Georgia volleyball’s Maddie Lobenstein shines early in the season
By Emily Greenwood
Maddie Lobenstein is making her mark on Georgia volleyball.
For the third tournament this season, the sophomore outside hitter led the team in kills when Georgia traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this weekend for the Demon Deacon Classic. Lobenstein tallied 24 combined kills in two matches on Saturday, tying her career-best 17 kills in a match against Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Madison, Wisconsin, native has come a long way from last season, as she played in just two matches and recorded seven attempts in 2014. Georgia head coach Lizzy Stemke attributes this improvement to an increase in confidence in the past year.
“She’s going up and taking the big swings this season,” Stemke said. “Whereas she may have been a bit hesitant with her feet or with her shot control last year, she’s been way more aggressive. It’s showing in her hitting percentage night after night.”
That hitting percentage continues to climb as the season continues. In her opening performance of 2015, Lobenstein was named Most Valuable Player at the Benson Hospitality Invitational and posted a .375 hitting percentage. In front of a hometown crowd, she recorded 17 kills and a .378 hitting percentage against Georgetown at the Badger Classic on September 11.///STYLE ERROR///
Standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, Lobenstein has always been a natural hitter. As a four-year letter winner at Deerfield High School, she led her team to four consecutive undefeated seasons and collected countless accolades throughout her conference and the state of Wisconsin.
“Maddie has a really heavy arm,” Stemke said. “It’s hard to stop and she knows how to control it. When the swing isn’t there, she mixes it up with different shots. But when she’s got the swing, there’s a lot of power coming across the net.”
Lobenstein admits///SAID/// that the biggest difference in her play from high school to college has been the adjustment to facing tough opponents in every single match. She has been working on improving her overall play all summer and during this preseason, with specific emphasis on foot speed and what she calls “being a presence on the court.”
Her presence will be vital in the coming weeks, as the team begins Southeastern Conference play on Sunday against Tennessee (14-1, 0-0 SEC).
A looming SEC schedule could intimidate the Bulldogs, who have struggled to a 5-7 record so far this season, but Lobenstein is not worried about tough conference play.
“I’m focused on practices and working hard right now,” she said. “We’re fighting every single point, no matter who is on the other side of the net.”
The Georgia coaches are also confident in their young player’s ability to perform in the SEC. They have been focusing on bigger blocks in practice, making Lobenstein hit against volunteer assistant coach Brian Muesenfechter to simulate conference defenses.
“Maddie’s next challenge will be to continue to stay aggressive against some pretty physical athletes in the SEC,” Stemke said. “She will certainly be ready for that challenge.”
Edited by Caleb Saffo
Blog Post 2
Georgia soccer’s transition to Billy Lesesne
By Minh Nguyen
As the Georgia soccer team adjusts to new leadership under Billy Lesesne, the transition from former head coach Steve Holeman has not begun as planned. The Bulldogs have started the season with a 1-5-1 record. However, there appears to be hope for the rest of the season, as the Bulldogs won their first regular-season game 1-0 at Samford on Sunday.
“As a young team, they really needed this victory,” Lesesne said. “You can definitely see the team’s confidence improve at practices this week as a result.”
With any change in leadership or coaching style, teams can expect to struggle while making adjustments. Lesesne is implementing his own tactics based off a 4-2-3-1 formation, which consists of four defenders, two central midfielders, three advanced midfielders and a striker. This formation is a notable change from last season. The coach’s main emphasis is on winning the possession battle and staying connected as a team at all times.
“Coach’s game plan is much different compared to former coach Steve’s high pressure and compartmentalizing scheme,” said sophomore forward Kelsey Killean. “As a team we have to trust coach’s decisions because he has come in with a positive mindset that has allowed us to make a natural transition.”
Up to this point in the season, the results have not met the Bulldogs’ expectations. Despite a disappointing record thus far, players have expressed how much they enjoy playing in Lesesne’s system.
“As a defender, I don’t get to attack much,” said senior defender Emma Sonnett. “But in the 4-2-3-1 formation, I’ve been given more opportunities to join the offensive attack from out wide and deliver services into the box.”
Lesesne has also added the important element of flexibility within the game plan.
“The biggest difference this year is that we aren’t being predictable by sticking to one game plan for the entire game,” Sonnett said. “We’re adjusting our formations throughout, in order to give us the best chance to compete.”
Looking ahead, the Bulldogs hope to become more acclimated to Lesesne’s system as they prepare for Southeastern Conference play. Georgia’s remaining regular season schedule consists of 10 consecutive SEC games. The team is looking to improve upon last season’s 5-5-1 record in the SEC, as well as advancing beyond the first round in the NCAA Tournament.///STYLE ERROR — TOURNAMENT ONLY CAPITALIZED FOR BASKETBALL///
“You have to let the horses ride,” Lesesne said. ///QUOTE MARK///They’re only going to get better the more they become familiar with what’s being asked of them.”
Edited by Emily Greenwood
Georgia volleyball excited about young team
By Emily Greenwood
Georgia volleyball is experiencing some growing pains. After starting the season with an impressive 3-0 performance at the Benson Hospitality Invitational, the Bulldogs have fallen to 4-4, losing matches to in-state rivals Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech and dropping three straight contests.
One look at the roster might provide some explanation as to why the team is struggling: Georgia volleyball is extremely young. The Bulldogs are returning just two regular starters from last season///COMMA/// and 12 of the 16 players on the team are underclassmen.
Head coach Lizzy Stemke, who had a starting squad that included four seniors in 2014, notices the difference in coaching with this team.
“I think we’re still working into our chemistry,” Stemke said. “Every opportunity that we get to step on the court, we’re looking to build chemistry through good times, through struggles and through it all.”
A major contributor to that chemistry is Jasmine Eatmon, a middle blocker from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and Georgia’s only senior.
“We rely on our returners for some real strong, steady emotional stability,” Stemke said. “Jas is about as experienced as they come. She’s a calming voice and a level head to help manage some emotions and help with our mental preparation.”
For Eatmon, adding new players to the rotation is an opportunity to improve on the team’s performance and have a successful senior season.
“I think they’re doing a really nice job,” Eatmon said. “We have new leaders on the court and it’s exciting. Everyone is finding their role, so growth and maturity are big this year.”
Looking ahead, the Bulldogs have room to grow. Despite an experienced starting rotation, Georgia posted a 14-17 record in 2014, including a 5-13 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
SEC play will be a challenge again, with three teams ranked in the top 25. To prepare for conference competition, the Georgia volleyball staff opted for a preseason schedule that included ACC powerhouse Syracuse and long-standing rival Georgia Tech, whom the Bulldogs have only defeated once since 2005. Both teams defeated Georgia in three sets.
“Every match that we’re playing, we’re preparing for SEC play,” Stemke said. “I think our schedule has put us in a position to be ready right away for some really physical teams. That’s what we face in the SEC every day, so that’s what we’re playing in the preseason.”
Sophomore Kendall Kazor is one of the team’s new starters and has been given massive responsibility as the Bulldogs’ only setter. She sees the youth of the team as an advantage for the future of the program.
“There are a lot more experienced players in this conference,” Kazor said. “But it’s exciting because we have so much room to grow. This core group is going to be together for a long time. It can only get better.”
This young core will have an opportunity to excise those growing pains this week, as the team travels to Wisconsin for the Badger Classic. SEC play begins Sept. 27, when the Bulldogs host Tennessee.
Edited by Caleb Saffo