Preview: Eastern Florida State College

Photo courtesy of Eastern Florida State College
Photo courtesy of Eastern Florida State College

Release courtesy of Mark DeCotis, Eastern Florida State College

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (January 29, 2015) - Wally Norwich’s goal as Eastern Florida’s first-year women’s tennis coach is a bit of back to the future.

“I like Isabella’s goal of going to the nationals,” Norwich said. “I’d love to go as a coach. I’ve been there as a player.”

Norwich was the first All-America men's tennis player at Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida). He won the state championship in 1972 and finished fourth in the national tournament the same year.

Isabella is sophomore Isabella Sella who returns from the inaugural team along with Hope Fellows. They are joined by freshmen Danyelle Copeland, Linn Sorman, Nicole Trio, Caitlin Pushman, Aly Andrews and Samantha Martin.

Sella hails from Valinhos, Brazil, Sorman from Jonkoping, Sweden and Copeland from Pelham, Georgia. Fellows, Andrews, Trio, Pushman and Martin are locals: Fellows from Merritt Island, Andrews from Cocoa Beach, Trio from Satellite Beach and Pushman and Martin from Melbourne.

While the singles and doubles lineups are still undetermined, all eight players are united in pursuit of a single goal: The national tournament.

“I think that’s not unreachable at all,” Norwich said. “I think it’s very much there. It’s just up to what the women want to do. They’re working hard towards it.”

To reach nationals Eastern Florida would have to finish in the top three in the Florida College System Activities Association/NJCAA Region 8 tournament in Sanford in April.

Its competition includes Intercollegiate Tennis Association No. 3 nationally-ranked and defending Region 8 champion State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, 10th-ranked Broward College, 11th-ranked St. Petersburg College, 12th-ranked Florida State College of Jacksonville and 23rd-ranked Hillsborough Community College.

The Titans open the FCSAA/Region 8 portion of their schedule by hosting FSCJ at 1 p.m. Friday at the Jimmy Moore complex at Sarno and Wickham roads in Melbourne. Admission is free.

The conference schedule consists of 10 matches to determine seeding for the conference tournament. A collegiate match consists of three doubles and six singles matches with each victory worth one point.

“Every slot is just as important,” Norwich said. ‘If you win five points you win the match. Six is going to be just as important as No. 1 to win.”

Eastern Florida is ranked 22nd. Individually Trio is ranked 28th nationally. Eastern Florida finished its 2014 inaugural spring season with a 3-11 record. But, the Titans rebounded in the fall.

“The team grew a lot through our practices and tournaments,” Norwich said. We had a tough fall schedule and we are continuing to build on our talents. “This season it will be important for us to know how to win the big points. We have to do what it takes to be consistent, to have a tough mental game, to play to the weaknesses of the opponent. They’ve definitely developed mental toughness and physical toughness and they’re going to do nothing but get better.

“Our lineup is strong and we can beat anyone in our conference if my players are healthy.”

Another plus for the Titans is the new, lighted, eight-court complex on the Melbourne Campus that is expected to be completed in time for late season matches. “We are very excited,” Norwich said. “(College President) Dr. (Jim) Richey and (Associate Vice President of Athletics) Jeff Carr have planned a superb facility and everyone is extremely anxious to have them ready for play.

“Our new facility and experienced coaching staff will help our recruiting efforts for our program.” Norwich is assisted by long-time pro Mark Harrison.