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25 April 2007
Al Muskewitz: "JSU Coach: 'Bring on the ’Dawgs' "

Al Muskewitz
Sports Writer
Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Steve Bailey said he expects he will draw one of the top teams in the country when his Jacksonville State tennis team gets its bid to the NCAA Tournament next week, so why not play the best?

The Gamecocks have to play somebody, so it wouldn’t hurt Bailey’s feelings in the least if the selection committee decided to send them to undefeated No. 1 Georgia.

“I wouldn’t mind it at all,” Bailey said. “First of all, it’s close to home. Georgia is the premier college program in tennis forever; their site over there is fantastic. I figure we’re going to play probably one of the top six or 10 teams in the country. Shoot, if it’s Georgia, why not? What do we have to lose? We’re going to go enjoy it. You won’t have a better atmosphere.”

The Bulldogs are 26-0 and have been ranked No. 1 for 25 of the past 26 poll weeks. The Gamecocks have never played a No. 1 team in tennis before.

Of course, they could get sent anywhere, but they’ll learn their destination Tuesday.

It was a good pretty atmosphere when the Gamecocks went to third-seeded No. 4 Ole Miss for their first trip to the Division I tennis championships two years ago.

“I couldn’t walk from court to court,” Bailey said. “They’ve got these gazebos between the courts and I couldn’t get through, there were so many people. It was wild. They love their tennis there.

“These kids who graduated, when they call me back, that’s all they talk about. That’s something these guys remember forever, playing in that venue. It’s kind of like a Davis Cup.”

Much like that squad, this JSU team turned the corner during its spring break trip to Charleston, S.C., prompting Bailey to joke he might make that a traditional trip from now on.

Even though this team is relatively young, it does have two players who were part of the program in the Gamecocks’ most recent NCAA trip.

Andres Amores, a junior from Ecuador, played No. 6 at Ole Miss; he’ll play No. 5 singles and No. 1 doubles this year. His match was early in the second set when the overall match was clinched. Joey Unkenholz, a junior from Homewood, was in the program two years ago; he’ll play No. 6 singles and No. 2 doubles.

• CLOSE TO HOME: One thing is quite evident about JSU women’s basketball coach Becky Geyer’s first full recruiting effort with the Gamecocks. The players mostly come from places you can find on a map of the South.

Former coach Dave Dagostino took a more national/global approach to pursuing players, a fact that seemed to ruffle feathers only once the team started losing.

Geyer’s 2007 class, completed with the arrival of four national letters this week, includes three players from Florida, two each from Alabama and Georgia, and one from New York.

They’ll join returning players from Georgia (two), Florida, Texas and Iowa to complete the roster.

The New York signee, Ann Butehorn, was a player Geyer got on last summer and stayed with. The Florida signees were in large part products of Geyer’s days at University of Central Florida.

“Our goal is to stay in Alabama, Georgia, the surrounding states, as much as we can,” Geyer said. “We’re really going to try (to recruit) as local as we can ... We visited the majority of schools in Alabama this year, just went out and said here’s who we are. We think Alabama and Georgia are the main focus and will continue to be.”

• NEWSY NOTES: The NCAA is currently reviewing a Jax State request for a waiver that could bring the football team its 2007 tight end. Zach Green, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound lineman from Conyers, Ga., is graduating from Clemson and has one year of eligibility remaining.

The NCAA doesn’t allow transfers for players with less than two years eligibility left and, perhaps fearing the potential for abuse, recently amended a transfer rule for seniors who’ve graduated on a waiver basis. The basis for request must be strictly academic and Green says he wants to pursue his graduate degree in a curriculum Clemson doesn’t offer.

• Maybe JSU golf coach James Hobbs ought to make football coach Jack Crowe an offer for his license plate. Crowe has a 3-PEAT tag on his truck; a plate he purchased after the Gamecocks won their second straight OVC title in 2004 (They didn’t make it in 2005). Hobbs’ women’s golf team won its third straight OVC crown last week.

• The golf team’s OVC Tournament title Tuesday moved the Gamecocks into third place in the men’s All-Sports Trophy race, one point behind current No. 2 Eastern Illinois. With no men’s track team, the Gamecocks have only one sport left to pick up points, baseball.

The JSU women, meanwhile, are are third in their race with track and softball left.

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Anniston Star.

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