Jan. 22, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Even with the “spring season” still an infant, the ACC schedule at horizon’s far edge, and Cole Fiegel but a freshman, he can tell that there is plenty different about the second half of a college tennis season.
It is more intense, more important, more soulful.
“For sure, for sure,” said the precocious lad from Gainesville, Fla., who has won four of his first five matches since tallying a 6-7 slate in the autumn. “In the fall you’re playing for yourself; it’s mostly individual tournaments.
“But in the spring you are competing for your team . . . it brings together the whole team. The guys . . . we all love playing for something other than ourselves.”
In his own way, Fiegel is an example of what makes Tech special. His brainpower makes it obvious, although it takes some conversation to reveal this.
So many students come to Tech for themselves, yet some student-athletes – particularly in golf and tennis — are perhaps the closest analogies to students at other institutions who make a college choice with social reasons in mind. You can see that in his previous comment, right?
There is much about Fiegel, too, that is typical of any Jacket – athlete or not. He’s looking to grow from his past, and elevate himself in the future. Tennis may not be a part of that, which is why he majors in industrial engineering.
So, why Tech? Options, baby.
You know Fiegel is smart and perceptive when looking at his trail to The Flats. Yeah, there was emotion involved– or rather eliminated — in his college choice. Also, though and this is big, there was serious calculation.
He escaped the draw of a fine college men’s tennis program in his home town and the lure of playing for former Tech women’s coach Bryan Shelton at Florida. His reasons were rock solid. Check this out:
“It was too close to home,” he said of Florida. “And the school [Tech] . . . it’s No. 1 in the nation in my program, knocking out Stanford and MIT — a pretty good fit.”
Fiegel feels like a better fit at Tech now than in the fall.
He played, but somewhat like teammates Casey Kay and Ed Segura, who missed significant action in the autumn in order to allow injuries to mend, the freshman felt behind physically.
“When I came [to Tech], I’d had some injuries and hadn’t been able to practice as much as I would have liked,” he explained. “A strained back and a partially torn rotator cuff — I had those before I came to Tech.”
After winning six singles matches and losing seven prior to the holiday break, he’s off to a fine start in the second semester as the Jackets have started 2-0 in dual meets with wins against Georgia Southern and Stetson.
Fiegel also won two of three matches last weekend at Tech’s MLK Invitational, when he beat players from nationally-ranked Memphis and Ole Miss before falling to a netter from No. 3 Georgia.
He’s part of the new vanguard for the Jackets, who feature three freshmen, three sophomores and a lone junior in Segura.
Now, he feels more like a veteran. When the fall began, he felt like a rookie. Asked where he believes his game as moved forward the most in the time between the start of each semester, he said, “Everywhere; a lot of it is mental . . . maturity.” Fiegel said, “everything is good to go,” now, and he’s looking forward to Saturday’s home match against North Florida.
That will be the sixth of 10 consecutive home matches for the Jackets, who are taking great advantage of the dazzling Ken Byers Tennis Complex.
Head coach Kenny Thorne, in fact, said that Tech’s ability to schedule so many home matches and to schedule a field as deep as that in last weekend’s MLK invitational is tied to the Jackets’ newer home. It helps recruiting as well.
For Fiegel, the North Florida match pales against thoughts of the ACC opener Feb. 22 at Florida State. “That’s pretty close to home, a big one for me,” Fiegel said. “I know everybody at Florida State. I wanted to get away, though, so I’m at Tech.”
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