BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - After a three-year hiatus, tennis returns to Union and the men's tennis is ready to get going.
The Bulldogs open the season Saturday at Appalachian Athletic Conference rival SCAD Atlanta (Ga.). Match set to begin at 1 p.m.
First-year head coach Roscoe Moonieyan believes his young crop of talent is ready to see what the season has in store of it.
"These boys have grown up so much from the time they started playing the in the fall," the Bulldog coach said. "They are still a very young group with some only having played tennis a few years, but the amount of coaching they have absorbed has been truly motivating for me as their coach. I believe they are as ready as they can be both physically and mentally."
Before the program's hiatus, the Bulldogs were a dominant force in the AAC and regular fixture at the NAIA National Championship Tournament. Union had won five AAC regular-season championships, four AAC tournament championships, two region titles and made five trips to nationals, advancing to the round of 16 each time.
Despite the stellar pedigree, Moonieyan does not want this pack of Bulldogs to concern itself with measuring up against the teams of the past. Instead, he desires for them to focus on improving from one match to the next.
"Being that this is the first year back, I would like to see our guys use every match to help build up their playing experience by applying what they have learned over the past few months," said Moonieyan. "They're all competitive boys, and I have not once ever questioned their effort and work ethic. They are all true Bulldogs as much of a fight they put up against each other during our drills.
"All I am expecting them to do is to apply themselves, and everything else will take care of itself from there."
The team consists of five freshmen and one sophomore, and Moonieyan noted, the team's leadership will likely come from sophomore Eric Mikhlin. The Edgewater, N.J., native is a transfer and has one year of collegiate experience under his belt. The team has even named him as captain.
In singles, look for Louis Molina to be Union's top player. Moonieyan said he has been one of the best players to have come out of the Canary Islands, and he is "an all-around elite player with tons of potential."
Molina will be paired up with Mikhlin as the Bulldogs' No. 1 doubles team.
"They have gained such a good understanding between the two of them over the past few months, and even though there is still so much to learn, they are playing as a team that has been together for a few years," Moonieyan said.
The Bulldog coach is a big fan of the team's willingness to fight for every point and for each other. Moonieyan believes this strength will help carry Union through the season.
"They are a very close knit team, and I think that is definitely going to be our biggest strength this year," he noted.
Union will play 10 regular-season matches with only three at home. The Bulldogs' first home match is March 3 against Point (Ga.). The AAC Tournament is set for April 11-12 in Atlanta, Ga.