Gwinnett Grads: Haney leads improving Auburn tennis team into NCAA tourney

It was the one match on the Auburn women's tennis schedule that looked like a certain loss.

But the Tigers did the improbable back on March 23, shocking unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Georgia with a 4-3 victory. At the time Auburn was ranked 41st, making it one of the biggest college tennis upsets in recent memory.

It was the Tigers' first win over Georgia since 1996.

"That was the biggest thing," said Auburn sophomore and Grayson grad Alex Haney, whose team begins NCAA Tournament play today in Athens. "I could die tomorrow and be happy. That was so unexpected. It was supposedly the biggest college tennis upset, men's or women's."

Haney did her part in the upset over Georgia, defeating the Bulldogs' Kelley Hyndman 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in singles. She also joined partner Melissa Koning for an 8-2 win in doubles.

The play vs. Georgia was very indicative of Haney's season. The team captain has been steady for the Tigers in singles and doubles, earning second-team All-SEC honors.

Playing mostly No. 2 singles, she has a 26-11 record this season (18-3 in the spring) and an impressive 10-2 mark vs. SEC foes. She and Koning have a 24-13 doubles record (14-6 in the spring), making Haney the first Auburn player in 14 seasons to accumulate 50 combined wins in one season.

Her most impressive singles win is over Vanderbilt's Catherine Newman, a former No. 1 ranked junior player. In doubles, she has defeated the nation's No. 2 team, Kentucky seniors Joelle Schwenk and Kim Coventry.

Haney and Koning, an Australian, are ranked 13th in the country in doubles, which earned the duo a spot in the May 24-28 NCAA doubles tournament in Athens.

"We're a top-notch (doubles) team, so we'd like to make the semis at least (at NCAAs)," said Haney, who was Auburn's team MVP as a freshman. "I have a goal of making the semis in NCAAs. We've beat so many seeded players. We have the results that show we should be able to do it."

Auburn opens the 64-team NCAA tourney today at 1 p.m. in Athens with a match vs. North Carolina State. The winner advances to play the Georgia-South Carolina State winner Sunday at 1 p.m. in the round of 32.

The Bulldogs still are ranked second nationally and have a 21-1 record, the lone blemish being the loss to Auburn, which is now ranked 28th.

Georgia earned a measure of revenge by defeating Auburn in the SEC tourney, and a third meeting may be on tap this weekend.

"Hopefully we can get past Georgia," Haney said. "We'll just have to take it one at a time and see how we do."

Off the court, Haney received the SEC Community Service Award for her work with a children's hospital, the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. A secondary math education major, she hopes to teach math and coach tennis after graduation.


Brisson, others get

Peach Belt honors

North Georgia's Craig Brisson, a Parkview grad, was named the Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year on Wednesday.

The outfielder hit a team-best .360 in 55 games and also led the Saints in runs (50), hits (80), on-base percentage (.444), walks (31) and stolen bases (13). He had two home runs, 27 RBIs, seven doubles and two triples as North Georgia's leadoff batter.

Four other Gwinnett grads made the All-Peach Belt team - Columbus State's Jarrett Coker and Billy Howard and Georgia College's Matt Howard and Hans Stancil.

Billy Howard hit a team-high .361 with 40 RBIs and Coker is Columbus' top pitcher with a 9-1 record, a 2.89 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 84 innings. Both are Parkview grads.

Matt Howard, a North Gwinnett grad, was 9-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 31 relief appearances. Stancil, who attended Parkwood Christian in Lilburn, hit .381 with three homers, 20 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.


Rogers named All-SEC

Dacula grad Brittany Rogers, an outfielder at Alabama, was selected to the All-SEC softball first team this week.

Rogers leads the SEC in runs (58), is third in batting average (.413) and second in stolen bases (44). In SEC play, she leads the league in runs (23) and stolen bases (20) while posting the third-best batting average (.388). She also has hit inside- and outside-the-park home runs from each side of the plate this season.

The sophomore also was one of 11 players named to the SEC Softball Community Service team for her work in the community.

Norris gets All-ACC nod

Brookwood grad Lisa Norris, a pitcher at North Carolina, was named to the All-ACC softball second team this week.

Norris is the Tar Heels' top pitcher with a 23-11 record, 1.89 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 2142⁄3 innings. She also hit .233 with two home runs and 15 RBIs.


Ward gets NCAA mark

Providence Christian grad Kris Ward, a runner at Georgia, placed eighth in the 800-meter run at the Drake Relays with an NCAA Regional qualifying mark.

Ward's personal-best time was 1 minute, 50.16 seconds.

"I thought we got a good contribution from Kris today and he showed us he is capable of doing some things for us at the conference meet and on down the road," Georgia coach Wayne Norton said.


Hamilton named All-State

Davidson College guard and Parkview grad Katie Hamilton was named to the All-North Carolina Collegiate Sports Association second team last week. She was a first-team selection on the 2005-06 team, which selects the top 10 Division I-A players from North Carolina.

Hamilton averaged 10.7 points and made a conference-best 38.4 percent of her 3-pointers for a 23-win Davidson team.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnett

dailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.