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Georgia Gwinnett College tennis coaches get top awards

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has named Georgia Gwinnett College tennis head coach Chase Hodges and assistant coach Lauren Meier as winners of the organization’s region coaches of the year.

Hodges was named Wilson/ITA Men’s Tennis Head Coach of the Year for the NAIA’s South Region while Meier was named both ITA Men’s and Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year for the NAIA’s South Region.

The pair has led the Grizzly men’s squad to a 17-0 overall record and the No. 3 seed at next week’s NAIA National Championships, while the GGC women have a 14-4 record, reached No. 1 earlier in the season and are the No. 2 seed for the championship tournament in Mobile, Ala.

This is the first season the Grizzlies are eligible for postseason play and national awards.

“It is an honor to be selected as the ITA/NAIA men’s tennis coach of the year for the South region,” Hodges said. “There are a lot of great coaches in this region and I appreciate the recognition.”

Both Hodges and Meier, a Woodstock native and a former college player at Kentucky, coached previously at Georgia State.

“I’m very happy that Lauren has been recognized as the ITA’s assistant coach of the year for both programs in the South region,” Hodges said of Meier. “Lauren has played a major part in the success of GGC tennis and she is very deserving of this award.”

GGC women earn No. 2 seed

In its first-ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Tennis National Championships, the GGC women’s team has earned a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

The 24-team, single-elimination national championship begins Tuesday at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Ala. The Grizzlies’ opener is Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the second round against the winner of Coastal Georgia and Indiana Wesleyan.

GGC shut out the SSAC semifinalist and NAIA No. 13 Coastal Georgia (12-7) back in March, while Indiana Wesleyan enters the tournament at 24-2 on the year with the Crossroads League Tournament championship and a No. 18 national ranking.

The NAIA No. 2 Grizzlies are the top at-large selection in the field and stand at 14-4 on the year with four wins over NAIA top-10 opponents this season.

The Grizzlies finished as runners-up at the Unaffiliated A.I.I./Gulf Coast/Red River/Sooner tournament to national tournament overall No. 1 seed Xavier (La.). The two teams split a pair of matches during the year. GGC knocked off Xavier in February to ascend to the national No. 1 ranking in March.

GGC also owns wins over sixth-seeded Brenau and seventh-seeded SCAD Savannah this year.

“Our women have earned the No. 2 seed and we feel good about our draw,” Hodges said. “We will take it one match at a time. We have been able to use this time to get healthy and I believe our women’s team is ready for the challenge.”

Grizzlies grab No. 3 men’s seed

The GGC men also enter the NAIA National Championships with high hopes and a high seed.

The Grizzlies are the No. 3 seed in their first-ever national appearances, earning a first-round bye. They open the tournament Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the second round against the winner of Bethel (Tenn.) and Graceland (Iowa).

NAIA No. 17 Bethel is 11-7 on the season and received an at-large bid while No. 14 Graceland is 11-5 and won the AMC/A.I.I./Frontier/HAAC/MCAC Tournament Championship.

The Grizzlies take a perfect 17-0 record and the Unaffiliated A.I.I./Gulf Coast/Red River/Sooner championship title into play in Mobile.

Four teams enter the national championship undefeated in NAIA play this season: top-seeded and defending national champion Embry-Riddle (Fla.), nine-time national champion and second-seeded Auburn Montgomery, GGC and fourth-seeded Vanguard (Calif.).

GGC also owns five wins on the year over this year’s tournament field, including eighth-seeded Belhaven.

“Our guys are anxious to play,” Hodges said. “We enter as the No. 3 seed and know that we will face difficult competition. The team has been training hard and I expect us to be ready to compete.”