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#STINGDAILY: A Healthy Dose Of Optimism

Jan. 13, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Rodney Harmon has a healthy dose of optimism, and “healthy” is an important word for the Georgia Tech women’s tennis coach.

His first run with the Yellow Jackets was scuttled last fall by a rash of injuries to players. Add the fact that the team didn’t have a home while the Byers Tennis Complex was under construction, and there was plenty of duress for Tech’s newest head coach.

So to say that Harmon was ecstatic Friday when the Jackets practiced indoors for the first time would be understatement. Knowing that his team will kick off its spring season Thursday when Syracuse visits in the Byers Complex debut, and that’s more than enough to prompt a smile.

“We’re really excited about the new building. We’re excited for our season to start,” Harmon said. “For both those reasons, we are looking forward to opening at the Ken Byers Center. We’ve watched it grow.

“And a buddy of mine, Syracuse coach Luke Jensen is coming in with his team.”

For the Jackets, there were no indoor practices in the fall; they practiced atop the Peters Parking Deck.

“We practiced there . . . no matter how cold it was. There were a number of days when it wasn’t pleasant,” the coach said. “Our girls never complained.”

Were Harmon the grumbling type, and he is not, he could have found plenty to complain about last autumn after replacing former coach Bryan Shelton. Beyond being nearly homeless, his roster was wracked.

“We lost a lot of time with our team in the fall. We are basically 100 percent healthy for the first time,” he said. “Alex Anghelescu and Muriel Wacker were almost completely out the entire fall. Alex played two or three doubles, and then didn’t play. Muriel didn’t play any.

“They’re really important because they’re juniors, and they also are on two different doubles teams. We could never get any depth.”

Despite all the injuries, the Jackets will open the spring No. 20 in the Campbell’s/ITA rankings, and Elizabeth Kilborn – the team’s only senior — is No. 39 in the singles rankings.

“Liz is the unquestioned leader. She is captain, and she’s the lead dog in this. We’ll go as far as her leadership takes us,” Harmon said. “She leads in a lot of different ways. We have [three] true freshmen and she’s helping them learn more about what’s going on.

“Academically, she had a 4.0 last semester, and she’s an ACC scholar-athlete. She’s a very, very valuable asset to our team. She’s had some small injuries, but those never kept her from practice. She brings her lunch pail every day. She’s ready to go.”

So, too, are the Jackets.

“Not only is it the indoor courts that we’re looking forward to having, but the stringing room, offices, everything that we need will be in one spot,” Harmon said. “We can now compete with all the other facilities around the country.”

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