This feature was originally published in The Inkwell and on its website.
After being rained-out twice already, the top-ranked and two-time defending NCAA Division II national champion Armstrong Atlantic State University women’s tennis team opened its 2014 season with a 9-0 win over Montevallo, in Montevallo, Ala. on Feb. 9. The win also notched head women’s and men’s tennis coach Simon Earnshaw his 700th career victory.
“Honestly, it’s just a number,” Earnshaw humbly said on his milestone. “Not necessarily one that was or is a goal particularly for me. It means I’ve been at this now for longer than I realize.”
Earnshaw, in his 15th season at the helm of the tennis program, has now compiled a 384-33 record as coach of the women’s team, and a 316-76 record as the men’s coach.
Armstrong’s opening victory put its current regular season league winning streak to 111 straight matches, dating back to 2003. They have also won 126 consecutive home matches.
The Pirates did not give up a single point in their doubles matches against the Falcons. The No. 2-ranked doubles duo of Aleksandra Filipovski and Barbora Krtickova defeated their opponents 8-0 at No. 1 doubles, while the No. 6-ranked pair of Marlen Hacke and Olga Kalodzitsa won 8-0 at No. 2 doubles. Clara Perez and Carolina Prats-Millan finished the sweep, winning 8-0, at No. 3 doubles.
Armstrong went on to win all six of its singles matches in straight sets, with the top three players not giving up a single point. Filipovski, ranked No. 3 nationally, won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles. Krtickova, ranked No. 15 nationally, defeated her opponent 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. Rounding out another perfect match was Prats, winning 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
Perez, No. 6 ranked nationally, was also nearly flawless, winning 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4 singles, and No. 24 ranked nationally, Kalodzitsa, came on top 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 singles. Completing the sweep was Dora Andrejszki, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 6 singles.
The men’s team has yet to play a match, and Earnshaw says that the two couldn’t be more different. Armstrong’s women’s team has five players back from the last two national championship teams with two highly talented freshmen, while the men’s team only has one player, Pedro Scocuglia, back from the 2012 national championship team.
“It’s really a question of trying to stay grounded, understanding what got the team to the point it is at right now, trying to replicate that and then addressing anything that can help improve each player just that little bit to try to stay out front,” Earnshaw said on the women’s team.
Being complacent with past success is the last thing that Earnshaw wants out of his ladies. He is all about motivation, and believes that the motivation is even more important for the returning women. The Lady Pirates will get the most out of every day, stay focused and make sure they leave nothing up to chance.
Earnshaw sees the men’s team in a transition period with less experience, but still expects to compete at the highest level.
“Obviously, transition is a dangerous term and implies we won’t contend this year,” Earnshaw said on the men’s team. “I don’t think that’s the case, and it’s more a question of how quickly can this group get up to speed and attain an understanding of the level of performance and commitment required to have the best opportunity to win a national championship.”
With a less experienced squad, Earnshaw is making sure that practice is perfect for the men’s team. He wants to see increased intensity from his team each day at practice. “Essentially an attitude adjustment from a good team to a championship team is what needs to take place and this will give us the best chance of success,” Earnshaw said.
Earnshaw has created quite the resume in his time at Armstrong, to say the least. He is perhaps the most decorated Division II tennis coach in the nation. In his 14-plus years as the school’s head coach, Earnshaw has won six women’s national championships, three men’s national championships and four ITA Division II Women’s National Coach of the Year awards.
Last season’s women’s national championship gave Armstrong its eighth national championship in women’s tennis, which broke the DII all-time record.
“I have a core concept and philosophy that stays approximately the same and has been that way from the early days,” Earnshaw said on how he has sustained such a successful program. “Around that, its been continual development, trying things to see if they work or not and trying to figure out how to implement certain coaching and motivational strategies to fit each team.”
Earnshaw realizes that he can use core philosophies of coaching, but must adapt from team to team, which has also led to making him such a successful recruiter.
“The remainder of the process is to recruit the absolute best possible student-athletes I can to fit our program’s goals and needs.”
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams can constantly be seen on Armstrong’s tennis courts to refine their game or in the weight room to get faster and stronger. Earning his 700th win will add to the record books, but for Earnshaw the number is just more motivation, leaving his teams far from complacent on the road to another national championship.