The Brenau University Golden Tigers tennis team (16-5) finished the 2012 season ranked No. 6 in the nation in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics prestigious coaches’ poll.
The Tigers lead singles player, senior LynSee Choo of Kuching, Malaysia, also won recognition for the third straight year as a first-team All-American. Choo and junior Eline Nagels of Antwerp, Belgium, also received academic recognition on the NAIA’s top Scholar-Athlete roster. And, Sophomore Stephanie Moniz of London, England, made the NAIA’s Champions of Character listings for the season.
The Brenau tennis team went into the national championship tournament in Mobile, Ala., ranked seventh in the nation, but improved its standing with a 5-0 win over No. 10-ranked Southern Nazarene. The third-seeded Tigers lost in the quarterfinals in a hard-fought match with Fresno-Pacific, which ultimately finished the tournament ranked No. 3 in the nation.
Brenau’s 2012 regular season losses all came against nationally top-ranked teams in the NCAA and the NAIA, including included NCAA Division III No. 3-ranked Emory University and No. 9-ranked Rollins College, NAIA No. 2 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and No. 1 Auburn University-Montgomery, which has won 12 national titles – the last nine consecutively. The Tigers did not play NAIA fourth-ranked Oklahoma Christian or fifth-ranked Azusa Pacific in the tournament or during the regular season.
Regular season victories included wins over three teams that still finished in top 20 national rankings: No. 9 William Carey, No. 11 Shorter and No. 20 Lee.
The 2012 tournament marked Brenau’s fourth consecutive appearance – and 12th overall – in the NAIA championship series. Only AUM has won more than one national championship. Brenau’s overall record in national championship tournament play now stands at 23-11.
“The Tigers team really surprised me at the end of the season,” said second-year coach Andre Ferreira. “We struggled with injuries throughout the year, so it was very exciting to see everyone healthy at nationals.
“All the credit, however, goes to our student-athletes who worked so hard and spent so much energy and effort preparing for the big event. Defeating No. 10 Southern Nazarene 5-0 and pushing No. 2 Fresno in the quarters was a result of the teams’ collective dedication and commitment to each other during practices.”
Ferreira conceded, however, that his ace in the hole at the beginning of the 2012 season was Choo – and she did not disappoint. During her 16-2 season, during which she was named Player of the Year in Brenau’s conference division, she knocked off two AUM nationally ranked players, No. 9 Jade Curtis and No. 1 Ana Veselionovic. In the tournament Choo topped Fresno Pacific’s Katarena Paliivets 6-4, 6-3 in a battle of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s fourth- and fifth-rated singles players. She was ahead in her earlier match against Southern Nazarene’s Masha Andrianova (6-2, 2-1) when play ended because the other Brenau players had won five matches in the best-of-nine competition.
“LynSee has had a tremendous season this year, beating some of the top players in the NAIA,” said Ferreira. “I knew she had a chance, but she’s a senior and she wanted it bad, and this was her best season, especially in the win against Ana Veselionovic, who does not lose a lot of games.” The AUM senior from Herceg-Novi, Montenegro, finished the season with a 23-2 singles record, playing nearly exclusively at the top position, and 25-0 in doubles play.
Brenau got a surprisingly big boost this season also with some outstanding doubles play, not only from the top pairing of Choo and partner Hannah Thompson, a senior from Colchester, England, but also from a new combination of junior Eline Nagels and freshman Maria Perdomo Medina from Canary Islands, Spain. Brenau’s No. 2 doubles team actually out-performed the No. 1 group, finishing the season with a 13-4 record and all-conference first team recognition. The Southern States Athletic Conference named Medina freshman player of the year.
“Eline’s hard work and experience and Maria’s good hands and talent made an outstanding combination,” said Ferreira. “They really stepped up.”
The 2012 season also provided the Tigers team something it sorely needed: experience. Choo and Thompson were the only two seniors on the roster that included three freshmen and a sophomore along with junior Nagels.
Although the loss of the two seniors leaves a void for next season, Ferreira already is off to a good start in filling it with the signing of Kelley Cohron of Buford, Ga. She was named to the Gainesville Times’ newspaper’s all-star team this year, and she is Ferreira’s first signee from Georgia for the singularly internationally flavored Brenau team.