May 13, 2004
Scott Schnugg knows what he wants.
Like most athletes, the Georgia Tech tennis standout possesses drive and determination, but what sets Schnugg apart is his ability to set lofty goals and reach them.
“I’ve seen him make as much progress as anyone that’s come through here,” stated Kenny Thorne, in his sixth year at the helm of the tennis program. “It’s totally due to his work ethic and his desire to get better. A lot of players will say the right things, but he’s backed it up with a lot of hard work. He’s a coach’s dream.”
The Medford, Oregon, native transferred to Georgia Tech after his freshman season at UC-Santa Barbara, seeking a better opportunity to hone his skills. His older brother Stephen, who attended Tech and briefly played for Thorne, recommended Tech as a program that could position Scott to play at the next level.
From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Schnugg has been one of the team’s top performers. In his first season, he recorded 29 doubles victories, the second-highest single-season mark in school history. Last year, he earned both all-America and all-ACC honors for his doubles play, and he and partner Roger Anderson finished the year ranked 10th in the nation.
This season, Schnugg has experienced similar success in singles, as he has anchored the number one spot all season. Posting a 25-10 overall record, he is currently ranked 53rd in the nation, garnering an invitation to the NCAA Individual Championship beginning May 24 in Athens.
“He was all-American in doubles last year, which is a great accomplishment,” Thorne noted. “Being in the NCAAs in singles this year, I think that says a lot about him. He’s always been a very good doubles player, but this year he’s turned it on to become one of the nation’s top singles players. He’s beaten some of the top guys out there. He had a breakthrough year in singles.”
One of the highlights for Schnugg this season was the opportunity to play in front of family and friends at an early March tournament in Eugene, Oregon, which is less than 200 miles from hometown.
“That was a real good experience,” Schugg recounted. “It was emotional for me when the match ended. I don’t know what came over me, I just got emotional because it was the first time my parents have seen me play since I came to Atlanta.”
“We took that trip mainly for him,” added Thorne. “We wanted to play some top teams, but we also wanted to get him a chance to play as a senior in front of his parents and friends. It was tough on [his parents, Steve and Cathy] not being able to come out here too often, so it was great for Scott to play those matches out there.”
Next up for Schnugg and his teammates is the NCAA Championship team competition. The 28th-ranked Yellow Jackets face SMU in Waco, Texas this weekend in their fourth straight NCAA appearance.
“I feel good about our chances,” Schnugg said. “We’re much more refreshed than we’ve been in years past. Sometimes after finals, we get a little burned out heading into the tournament. This year’s been different. We’ve had more exciting practices, and we feel good going in to the tournament.”
With his collegiate career winding down, Schnugg is turning his focus towards completing his degree in Management this fall, as well as trying his hand on the professional circuit. He plans to enter several tournaments this summer and then on a more full-time basis after graduation. While most athletes dream of playing professionally, Schnugg has a real shot to make it, according to Thorne, who spent eight years on the pro tour.
“He needs to go out there and be there for a little bit,” he said. “Once he’s been around those players and feels comfortable around them, he’ll break through and do well. He’s got a big enough game to go out there and play.” With his dream within reach, Schnugg has been able to get plenty of advice from Thorne and women’s coach Bryan Shelton, a nine-year veteran of the tour.
“They are constantly talking about what it takes, and that’s definitely one of the reasons I chose Georgia Tech,” he said. “Given their experience on the tour, you need someone like that to help out. They’ve talked to me about their college careers and how they made adjustments into the pros. It has been very valuable.”
In the meantime, Schnugg hopes to add a few more lines to an already impressive resume over the next few weeks. He’s already left an imprint on the program, which is what he set out to do from the start.
“I’m real happy with the progress I’ve made,” Schnugg said. “I came into Georgia Tech with certain goals and an idea of how my career would turn out. Now that it’s almost over, it’s sort of exactly how I hoped.”