May 10, 2001
By Jack Williams
When the Georgia Tech tennis teams for men and women compete in NCAA Tournaments beginning this weekend, two transfer students from far-away places are among those who hope to serve up a court-full of trouble for Yellow Jacket opponents.
Meet Stephen Moros, formerly of Texas A&M, and Debbie Reynolds, formerly of the University of Wisconsin, who have burst on the Tech tennis scene this season with headline results.
And watch out! They may bowl you over with an overhead smash or two. They take this game seriously.
For the first time in history, Tech has placed both its men’s and women’s teams in NCAA competition in the same season. Everyone on the Tech tennis beat agrees that Moros and Reynolds have played major roles in pulling off that feat.
Coach Kenny Thorne’s Tech men, ranked 26th nationally, open post-season play against Arizona, ranked 37th, at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Center at the University of Georgia. The host Bulldogs meet Furman in the other first round match at 1 p.m. Winners play in the second round Sunday.
Meanwhile, Coach Bryan Shelton’s Tech women, ranked 46th nationally, play UCLA, ranked 30th, in a first round match at 1 p.m. (EDT) at Fresno, Calif., Saturday. Host Fresno State battles Cal State Northridge in the other first round match. The winners will clash Sunday.
Moros and Reynolds both express confidence heading into the NCAA. “I am very confident,” Moros said. “We are a strong team and can hang with the Top 20 programs.”
Reynolds disagrees with a few critics who have said the 11-11 record of the Tech women was not good enough for NCAA qualification. “There is no question in my mind we deserved a shot,” she said. “We are a solid and a very good team, and I’m happy we have another chance to prove it in the NCAA.”
The two transfers share the spotlight with a host of talented teammates.
Other top women players in leading roles are are senior Bobbi Guthrie, junior Laura Ozolins, sophomores Mason Miller, Mysti Morris, and Jamie Wong and freshmen Kristen Roberson and Fallon Koon.
Joining Moros on the men’s roster in leading roles are seniors Sergio Aguirre and Romain Coirault, sophomores Roger Anderson and David Wright, and two sparkling freshmen Joao Menano and Alex Navinkov.
Moros, a sophomore from Sarasota, Fla., is one of the most promising tennis players on the Tech campus. He won the Flight 4 singles championship this season in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference and teamed with the veteran Aguirre to take runner-up honors in Flight 3 doubles. As a junior player in Florida, Moros has been ranked No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in his home state.
“Stephen is used to winning because of his outstanding record as a junior,” Thorne says. “When the match is close, he’s a guy who will rise to the occasion. Once he became acclimated to academics and tennis here, he settled in as an outstanding player. He’s one of our toughest outs.”
Moros proved that by posting an overall record this season of 16-7 in singles play and he and Aguirre were 6-3 in doubles, pacing the Jackets to a 16-6 overall record and a strong third place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference race.
Moros hails Aguirre as an outstanding doubles partner. “Sergio is a more experienced player than I am and knows how to play the game better than I do at this stage,” he said. “He is very good at the net, so that often enables me to win my serve.”
The 5-10, 160-pound Moros came by his tennis ability quite naturally. His father, Julio, played for Venezuela in Davis Cup competition in the 1970s and has coached such top stars as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Monica Seles at the famed Bolleterri Tennis Academy in Florida, where Julio is a full-time employee. Moros likes to hit with his father and gets valuable tennis tips from him. Stephen’s mother, Irene, teaches in the academic section of the Bolleterri Academy.
Then there’s Cristina, Stephen’s sister, who was a four-time tennis All-American at the University of Texas and currently plays doubles on the pro circuit.
Moros played one season at Texas A&M, but says he did not feel comfortable there. “I asked a friend, Bo Hodge, to recommend another good school for me,” he said. “He told me Georgia Tech was very good academically and had a former tennis pro (Thorne) coaching the men’s team. I feel much more comfortable at Tech.”
Moros majors in economics and hopes someday, when his tennis competition is over, to have an opportunity to work on Wall Street in New York City. First, however, he has a lot of unfinished business at Georgia Tech.
“I also have a goal to play tennis professionally and compete in the Grand Slam tournaments,” he said.
Looking back at his first regular season at Tech, Moros hails the ACC as “a stronger, more consistent” conference than the Big 12 in which he competed at Texas A&M. He says one of the highlights of his season came when Tech upset Miami of Florida and he beat one of the Hurricanes’ top players, Peter Hoffman.
Reynolds, who graduated from Tech last week, took a long, winding road all the way from Acworth, her hometown near Atlanta, to Madison, Wis., and back to study and play tennis at Tech. She says she liked the University of Wisconsin very much, but came back home basically for two reasons – to be close to Todd Kennedy, an Atlanta stockbroker, to whom she is engaged and because she was recovering from surgery to correct recurring problems with a shoulder and a knee.
After playing two seasons of tennis at Harrison High in Acworth, Debbie was recruited by six major schools, Wake Forest, William and Mary, Notre Dame, Indiana, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. “I wanted to go up north because that’s where my parents were from,” she said. “I wanted to have the cold weather.”
After transferring from Wisconsin and sitting out the fall season at the start of this school year, Reynolds joined the Tech team in the spring and worked her way up the ladder to play at the No. 1 position.
“We are a team that is very even from top to bottom,” she said. “So it was not automatic that I would wind up No. 1. It was a day-to-day thing. I did well in challenge matches and moved up.”
Playing in the tiger-tough ACC, Reynolds posted an overall singles record of 7-16. She only played doubles on one occasion because she had told Coach Shelton she might be limited physically as she recovered from surgery.
Her biggest fan is Coach Shelton. “Debbie came in and filled a big position for us, playing at No. 1,” he said. “I’m sure she would have liked to win more matches. But she was playing the best girls in the country-and she held her own. She brought so much to our program. More than just tennis, she brought personality and enthusiasm.”
Reynolds says she learned valuable lessons from Coach Shelton. “Sometimes out there, you are not having your best tennis day and it’s tough,” she said. “Coach served as an inspiration to me on those occasions, particularly in big matches against Iowa and Clemson, two times when I came from behind to win in three sets. I have great respect for Coach Shelton, both as a coach and a person.”
Reynolds got her Tech degree in science technology and culture and plans to work the next two years in the program, Teach for America. Under that program’s guidelines, she will teach full-time at an Atlanta inner-city school at the elementary level.
“My goal in life is to give back some of the wonderful things that have been given to me,” she said. “I want to be a good person.”
Reynolds also comes from an athletic family. Her father, Robert, played football in the Coast Guard. Her mother, Joyce Ann, was a junior golfer who cancelled her plans to join the pro circuit when she got married. They both play tennis and so do Debbie’s brothers. Bobby plays at No. 2 singles for Vanderbilt and Michael is a fine player on the team at Harrison High.
Debbie Reynolds, incidentally, is not named for the famed movie star of that name. “My parents got my name from a commercial on TV and named me Deborah Lee,” Reynolds said. “They never intended for me to be called Debbie.”
One thing for sure. You can bet this Debbie Reynolds will continue her tennis activity after her forthcoming wedding. Her husband-to-be Todd was a four-time All-America player at Emory University, and he’s quite serious about the game, too.
In the meantime, Debbie and Stephen and all their teammates at Georgia Tech look ahead to the biggest and toughest college showdowns of all, some serious business in NCAA Tournaments.