For the third time in program history, the Coastal Carolina men’s tennis team ran through the Big South schedule unbeaten while finishing off an 8-0 regular-season conference record with a 6-1 win over Liberty on Wednesday.
These Chants, who are 18-3 overall, join the 1994 (9-0) and 2013 (8-0) teams as the only in program history to accomplish the feat.
And what perhaps makes it even more special is that was far from a given when this season started.
“The best way to put it is I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud as a coach as I am right now of this team,” coach Chris Powers said. “Simply because, of course we’ve got good players, but we didn’t do it on talent – we did it on hard work, character and relentlessness. These guys refuse to quit on the tennis court. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
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There’s a stat Powers is particularly proud of this season, noting that when the Chants have lost the first set and come back to win the next one they are then 22-2 in those decisive third sets.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it. These guys just find the way to get it done, and they’ve done it all year.”
Junior Jabor Al-Mutawa is 15-5 for the Chants this season, including an 8-5 mark at No. 1 singles and a 7-0 record at No. 2 singles. Junior Vuk Velickovic is 17-4 overall with a 5-2 mark at No. 1 singles and a 12-2 record at the No. 2 spot. And there have been plenty of other contributors, including senior Pedro Leme (12-5, mostly at No. 3), junior Sebastian Schneider (12-4, mostly playing at the No. 4 spot), senior Nic Planchard (10-3 at No. 5/6), freshman Luiz Faria (8-2 mostly at No. 6) and senior Rick Timmerman (8-4 mostly at No. 5).
Powers said Leme, a transfer from Pepperdine before last season, has been an especially pleasant surprise.
“Last season he struggled down in the lineup and I think he had a losing record,” he said. “We start the season holding each other accountable and building a culture of respect and I think it had a really positive effect on him, and his tennis spring-boarded off of us setting a new culture. He’s the player that I thought he always would be.”
The next step for the Chants is the Big South tournament starting Wednesday in Lynchburg, Va., where a championship would earn their spot in the NCAA tournament field.
“The players get focused on a lot of things, on wanting to get nationally ranked, on beating a ranked player. Doing it as long as I have, my sole goal is to hopefully set the stage to get back to the dance,” Powers said. “That’s all I want. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way they performed and had such a great regular season, but the ultimately goal is always to get back to the NCAA tournament.”