It’s a bit of a Cinderella story.
From preseason cellar-dweller to a program record 14 wins and a fourth-place finish in the Big South Conference, the men’s tennis team turned more than a few heads in 2017. The success can be attributed to the leadership of head coach Pierre Tafelski, named Big South Coach of the Year in just his second year at Longwood, and to the hard work of the team.
Led by senior ace Florian Uffer ’17, a business major from Savognin, Switzerland, and bolstered by a standout freshman class that featured Big South Freshman of the Year Amadeo Blasco ’20, a business major from Valencia, Spain, the Lancers finished the year 14-6 overall and 4-3 in Big South play. Included in their season résumé were a pair of 4-3 walk-off wins against Big South powerhouses Liberty and
Winthrop, both of which were Longwood’s first-ever Big South victories over the annual conference front-runners.
“The expectations [in the locker room] were pretty high, even though we do have a very young team,” Tafelski said. “It started last fall in August, and we’ve been working to become as successful as we can be right away.”
Tafelski was named the Big South Coach of the Year for engineering Longwood’s breakthrough, becoming the third coach in the history of Longwood athletics to earn that Big South honor.
Blasco spent the entire spring in the top half of the rotation and finished with a 16-4 overall record and 5-2 in conference play. Also named the Longwood Male Freshman Athlete of the Year for 2016-17, Blasco sealed the Lancers’ first Big South win in program history with a three-set thriller over Liberty’s ace in a 4-3 Lancer triumph.
Uffer anchored the top of the rotation alongside Blasco, finishing 15-8 in singles play, including
a 7-4 mark at the No. 1 slot. He and Blasco also formed Longwood’s top doubles rotation, going 16-4 on the year and finishing the season with 10 consecutive doubles wins.
“The main thing is being accountable and working toward the team,” Uffer said of the turnaround under Tafelski. “Before [coach arrived] we were six individual players competing for ourselves first, and then for the team. When coach came along, we started working as a team more. When we work as a team, there are a lot more chances to win.”