Piedmont Tennis: Staying Hot After Orlando


Cooper Kework in mid-serve form PHOTO//Karl Moore

Connor Creedon, News and Features Editor

In many aspects of the college experience, the welcoming of March and spring weather introduces the concept of “crunch time.” As the semester winds closer to the finish, every detail carries more weight and significantly impacts the overall result. For Piedmont University tennis, it means rallying on an already successful 2022-2023 showing and bringing the first CCS tennis championship back to Demorest.

The men’s and women’s programs have had impressive regular seasons so far, winning critical matches in big moments, surrounded by pressure. In the first four regular-season contests, the Lady Lions went 4-0, followed by the men going 3-1. These early matchups prepped the team for their first big test of the season, a spring break trip to Orlando, Florida, where they played five matches over three days against unfamiliar competition. 

“The trip was a real test for the team to see what we are really all about this year,” said Imani Vincent, a star senior on the women’s team. “We got some great experience trying out different formations that had the matches feeling fresh.”

Led by head coach Trey Martin, the Piedmont women opened the competition on Mar. 5 against Baldwin Wallace University, winning by a 9-0 margin. Junior Brook Patton clinched the 5-0 singles win, going 6-2 and 6-1 to extend the sweep. Jordan Ballard and Marion Sloyan contributed wins of their own, setting up Abbey Grace Venham to finalize the shutout with her 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles.

Three new opponents resulted in three more wins for the Lions as they routed Schreiner University, Immaculata University and College of St. Benedict, all by margins of five points or more. The doubles teams consisting of partners Venham and Alyssa McSpadden as well as the Sloyan and Dakota Wilkes duo played well throughout the stretch, with more leadership in singles from Vincent. Hollan Rabensdorf earned her first dual singles win of 2023, and sophomore Mia Vasher won a first-set tiebreaker to keep the streak alive. 

The Sloyan and Kaitlyn House duo finished off the three-game stretch with a victory, which would, unfortunately, be the last win of the trip. The Lions played Wheaton College on March 9, losing 3-6 and closing out the entire week of competition at 4-1. 

The fight for an NCAA tournament bid continues for the men of Piedmont Tennis, who also performed well in the spring break festivities. In a hard-fought matchup with Schreiner University, the Lions suffered a 3-5 loss to start the week. The team roared back on March 6, winning six singles lines in straight sets against Immaculata University. JC Foster, Kody Dills and Leo Galarza played vital roles with their individual performances, posting 6-0 routes from Foster and a clutch 6-1 victory for Galarza in one of the final sets. Freshman Austin Adderly picked up his first career dual match singles win, while Nile Morris (6-3, 6-4) and Ryan Raugh (6-1, 6-2) sealed the deal with two set victories, finalizing the game as an 8-1 Lions win. 

Following a 4-5 loss to Hampden-Sydney College on Mar. 8, Piedmont set the record straight again, catching a big 6-3 victory over Trine University. In the final matchup of the event, the men’s team went out positive in a nail-biter matchup with Saint John’s University, ending in a 5-4 score. The strategy was skillfully navigated by Connor Phelps, Yannick Wassmer Navarro and Mike Porcelli who posted the 8-2 score to accompany Jackson Traylor’s 6-2 singles win.

The Lions now focus on a series of extremely important CCS matchups, all playing vital implications in tournament seeding on April 27. Both men’s and women’s teams will compete with conference opponents Maryville, Barea, Covenant, LaGrange, Huntingdon and Belhaven in the upcoming late March through April stretch. For both squads, high hopes and higher expectations remain the top focus. 

“We have had some tough matches this year, but they have helped us learn how to come back stronger,” said Leo Galarza, a senior tennis team member, and sports communications major. “We want to earn that number one or two seed for the conference tournament, so the next month means everything.”

Maryville and Barea are the first two conference opponents in the late season stretch for the Lions, each taking place at the Burgan Tennis Courts on the Demorest campus of Piedmont University. 

For the full tennis schedule and all other Piedmont sports information, visit piedmontlions.com