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Bisons will depend on blend of youthful talent and maturity on tennis court

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jan. 30, 2007

The success of the Lipscomb Bisons tennis team this spring will depend on a combination of young talent and senior leadership.

Coach Lynn Griffith is excited about the futures of the two freshman additions to the team _Daniel Hangstefer from Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Josh Cummings from San Vito de Normanni, Italy.

"We had a good recruiting year," Griffith said. "Both of them are going to be very good players. If we can continue to recruit that well there will be better days ahead for the men's tennis program."

Cummings wanted to come to the United State to attend college. His father, Dean, a native of Etowah, Tenn., told him he could only go to college in Tennessee. His grandparents are members of the Church of Christ so Lipscomb proved to be attractive on several levels.

Cummings has spent most of his childhood in Italy, with a few years spent in Charleston, S.C. His mother, Concetta, is a native of Italy.

"Josh has a tremendous forehand," Griffith said. "I use the expression, `pure smoke'. You don't see it. You just hear it go by. He has a big time weapon with his forehand."

As an international player he has spent most of his time playing on clay courts. Players making the transition from clay to hard court surfaces have an advantage.

"A person who has played on clay courts is used to long points, having to work points and understands strategy a lot better than someone who has played on hard courts most of the time," Griffith said. "On hard courts you can hit cheap winners on hard courts. Josh doesn't hit cheap winners. They are just flat-out winners because he is used to having to work the clay courts for points.

"He has a good strategic mindset from the baseline," Griffith said. "He has got to improve his net game and he knows that and understands it. It is good for us to have someone with a clay court mindset on the team. But to be a complete player has to learn to play the net."

Hangstefer is from a family of tennis players. His two older brothers play or have played for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

"Daniel is 6-foot-1," Griffith said. "He is kind of rangy. He has the build to be a very good tennis player. He is not quite as tall as Pete Sampras, but he has that type of build. He can stretch out and almost cover the court with his arms and racket."

Hangstefer has also responded well to the conditioning and weight training program for the Bisons.

"A lot of players come to college tennis programs from high school and are just in shock with the strength and conditioning that goes on in college," Griffith said. "But you can already see the strength aspect kicking in on Daniel. He has a great future in college tennis."

Mike Sherman, a senior from Richardson, Texas, has been a second team All-Atlantic Sun selection for two seasons. Griffith is hopeful Sherman can break through to the first team this season.

"Mike works hard," Griffith said. "Tennis is a lot like baseball. You have to go to the field or the court and work everyday. Mike has a great work ethic. That is why he will be a successful engineer when he graduates."

The remaining seniors are David Carrillo, from Abilene, Texas; and Colten Jones from Cottontown, Tenn.

"David will add a lot of maturity and stability in the middle part of our lineup," Griffith said. "Colten will play in the five and six spots for us. It is great when you have a senior playing fifth or sixth because that means your team has gotten better. He has played as high as No. 3. We are looking for a good year from Colten. He had a very good fall."

Jeff West, from Highland Village, Texas; and Daniel Carrillo from Abilene, Texas; are the only juniors on the team.

"Jeff is also a very mature player who understands the game very well," Griffith said. "He is a very good strategist on the court."

Andy Mizell, also from Richardson, Texas, is the only sophomore.

"Andy plays doubles with Jeff," Griffith said. "They really are a very good doubles team. They may be our best as far as understanding how to play the doubles game. They have blended their strengths on the court. They also communicate well. They had a very good season last year playing the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spot. I see them doing the same thing this year."

Griffith expects the season to be a tough one for the Bisons. The Atlantic Sun Conference is known for highly-skilled tennis players.

"ETSU is nationally ranked," Griffith said. "Stetson has the capability to be nationally ranked. North Florida has won a Division II national championship. South Carolina Upstate has knocked on the door of a Division II national championship. Last year the NCAA rated tennis conferences and the Atlantic Sun was rated 11th."

Former Lipscomb tennis player Andrew Harris, a second-team All-Conference selection last season, is serving as a graduate assistant coach.