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Collegiate tennis returns to Brookhill

Shouts of encouragement, complete with loud applause andfoot-stomping, cascaded across the grassy slopes surroundingBrookhill on Natchez tennis center last March. Balloons, in colorsof black and gold, red and gray, fluttered in the breeze.Collegiate tennis had returned to Brookhaven.

Less than a year later, the Samford (Ala.) Bulldogs and SouthernMiss Golden Eagles resume their rivalry. Saturday’s action beginsat 11 a.m., with three doubles matches. The six singles matcheswill start around 12:30 p.m. The match is open to the public andadmission is free.

Local tennis guru David Misner has been looking forward to thematch. He is Brookhill’s tennis director/general manager.

“It’s exciting to have an NCAA tennis match here in Brookhaven,”said Misner. “It’s sheer excitement. There’s a lot of intensity.There are great points in doubles and singles.”

Tennis teams often labor in obscurity, tucked away in thesecluded confines of a college campus. The scholarship players areovershadowed by other spring sports, like baseball andsoftball.

Both teams enjoyed their visit last season and are anxious toreturn. Hometown product Stuart Misner is playing No. 1 singles forSamford. He is a 5-foot-10, 150-pound junior who has a passion forthe game.

“Players and coaches had such a good time last year, they wantedto come back again,” said David Misner. “They loved the facilityand the crowd’s enthusiasm.”

Both teams are talented. Samford has two international playersand Southern Miss has 6 of 8 from foreign soil. Samford is coachedby Kemper Baker. Southern Miss is under the direction of LSU gradTeddy Viator.

In the event of a light rain, there is a covered grandstand fortennis fans to view the action.

At Samford, located in Birmingham, Misner is juggling a heavyclass load as he prepares for a career in the medical field. “Iwant to go into nurse anesthesia. I spend a lot of hours at thehospital,” doing clinical and intern work.

Last summer Misner worked at KDMC, learning more about hisfuture career.

“This will be the first time since Christmas that I’ve beenhome,” said Misner. “We have a pretty good team. We started slowbut we have been playing some tough competition.”

Asked about a recent 6-4, 6-3 loss to a 6-foot-10 Belgium playerfrom Auburn-Montgomery in No. 1 singles, Misner said, “He was agiant with a monster serve.”

Baker said he was looking forward to playing at BrookhillSaturday. “They have a great crowd and a beautiful facility. It’s acompetitive event.”

Asked about Samford’s season, Baker said, “We are off to apretty good start. We are 2-3. We lost to Memphis, Auburn andAuburn-Montgomery.”

On the bright side, the Bulldogs defeated Jacksonville State(Ala.) in a revenge match, and North Alabama. They were upset byJacksonville in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament last May.

According to Baker, Misner is making giant strides in his game.”Stuart is playing pretty well,” said Baker. “His game hasdramatically improved from last year. He’s been very competitive inthe No. 1 matches. He got a quality win over a tough opponent fromNorth Alabama.”

Last spring, Misner advanced to the championship finals of theOVC tournament and lost in No. 2 singles.

“Stuart’s first serve has gotten better,” said Baker. “He hasthe ability to break down opponents and form a game plan whichattacks their weakness. Mentally, he’s become a strongercompetitor.”

Misner has played the No. 1 and No. 3 positions for Samford.

Baker said his Bulldogs are dealing with some injuries. “Our No.1 player (Manuel Miletec) from last year has been out for a portionof the season.”

Two freshmen from Florida have provided the Bulldogs with moredepth. “Brian Dushock and Eric Stephens are very strong players whoare giving us some added depth,” said Baker.

Viator watched his Golden Eagles beat Samford 5-2 last season.They finished the season with a 13-9 record.

David Canudas, USM’s No. 1 singles star, graduated. DomaggiAnic, a freshman from Croatia, played No. 1 singles Sunday in histeam’s 5-2 loss to New Mexico State in the UNLV Invitational.

Saturday’s match will be much closer to Hattiesburg.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602, or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com