TENNIS

Double the bragging rights at stake for former Blazer tennis greats | local sports

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VALDOSTA – Continuing the theme of honoring Valdosta State’s Chief Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach, John Hansen, over 50 years of coaching, a number of former men’s and women’s tennis players will return on campus Saturday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the VSU Tennis court.

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Headlined by former Blazers Shaq Kirtane and Derrick Racine, the famous duo will take on anyone in a single game. The rules of the game will be that each person serves once until a team has won. Every team defeating Kirtane and Racine will receive lifetime bragging rights.

In addition to the presence of Kirtane and Racine, a number of former male and female Blazer tennis players Eric Anderson, York Carter, Chan Deas, Dina Dobrowski, Tom Hetherington, Roger Musgrove, Walter Peacock, Xavier Pineda, Eduardo Rincon , Greg Robson , Nicolai Sablowski and Thomas Tarnowski, to name a few.

Kirtane has had an outstanding coaching career where he is entering his ninth season as the associate head coach of women’s tennis at Mississippi State. There, he helped guide the team to a 99-72 overall record, including five NCAA playoff appearances and the team finishing in the top 50 of the ITA final standings five times.

Prior to Mississippi State, Kirtane was Lindsey Wilson College’s head coach for the men’s and women’s teams from 2012-2014, where he helped lead the program to back-to-back national semifinals for the women’s program and the national quarter-finals. . He was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 2014.

Kirtane began his head coaching career at the University of Northern Iowa from 2002 to 2012. There he went 129-88 in ten seasons and the 129 wins are the most in program history at UNI. He was named Missouri Valley Coach of the Year in 2011.

Prior to taking charge of the program at UNI, Kirtane served as the Blazers men’s and women’s assistant coach from 1998-2000 for Hansen. In 2000, the men’s team reached fourth place in the nation, while the women’s team won the conference title and reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division II championship. A year later, the men’s program reached second place in the nation and won its second straight conference title.

As a Blazers player, Kirtane earned All-America honors and was part of a team that finished fourth nationally in 1994-95 and entered the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Blazers won the Gulf South Conference title in 1995 and Kirtane was named VSU Most Valuable Player in 1996. Kirtane was later inducted into the Valdosta State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Racine was the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at the University of West Florida for 22 years, where he had a ton of success. Racine has won seven Division II/Wilson ITA Men’s National Tennis Coach of the Year and the 2012 ITA Women’s National Coach of the Year. He had guided the Argo men’s team to four national titles and won 13 GSC men’s titles. On the women’s side, Racine had coached the Argos to 16 GSC titles, the most of any program.

He was an assistant coach at Valdosta State from 1993-1995. He graduated from VSU in 1988 and also played at Abraham Baldwin State College and was nationally ranked in singles and doubles at VSU, earning All-America honors .

On April 15, 2022, following a women’s game against Flagler College, VSU Athletics celebrated Hansen’s 50 years of coaching and a storied career. HeTennis I had guided the red and black tennis teams to two national titles, three second places and three top four finishes. He guided the teams to 24 combined South Atlantic Conference and South Gulf titles, including the top 14 men’s GSC championships and four women’s titles.

Hansen was named coach of the year 22 times in both conferences, winning the award 13 times at the GSC for men and five times for women. He won GSC Men’s Coach of the Year honors most recently in 2021 as he guided the Blazers to an undefeated league campaign and third consecutive league title.

He has also received numerous national accolades, as he was named Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division II Coach of the Year twice in 2000 and 2010. He was named Men’s Coach of the Southern Region Women’s Coach of the Year honors in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011, while adding Southern Region Female Coach of the Year honors in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Apart from being honored for his achievements, Hansen makes sure his players play at a high level and also get personal recognition. He has coached more than 65 All-America players and an athlete has won All-Gulf South Conference honors 185 times, including 93 men and 92 women.

Thanks to Hansen, Valdosta State has boasted GSC Player of the Year 24 times, 14 men and 10 women. In fact, Leo Blay has won the honor twice, following Philip Pakebusch, who won his second consecutive GSC Player of the Year award in 2011. The GSC Rookie of the Year has often come from VSU as well that 12 women and nine men won the award under Hansen’s tutelage. Bea Morales in 2015 last won the honor on the women’s side, while former Blazer Florian Simbozel was last on the men’s side in 2018.

In the NCAA playoffs, Hansen also had tremendous success with a combined record of 74-39 as the men’s team is 52-25, while the women’s team is 22-14. . Together, Hansen guided the Blazers to 43 playoff appearances — a GSC record 27 for the men’s team and 16 for the women’s team. Hansen guided the men’s team to their two national titles in 2006 and 2011, while finishing second in 2004, 2007 and 2010. The women’s team qualified as one of the last four remaining teams three times (2005 , 2008, 2009).

Hansen’s athletes have also won a number of individual honors nationally as Pakebusch and Christian Hansen were named ITA Senior Players of the Year in 2011 and 2012, while Eduardo Rincon won the Arthur Ashe Award. in 2004. On the women’s side, Raphaelle Durante, also a VSU Athletic Hall of Fame winner, won ITA Rookie of the Year in 2007.

He is one of two active VSU coaches ever inducted into the Valdosta State Sports Hall of Fame and Hansen is only the second coach ever to earn that honor while still actively coaching. Current Blazer softball head coach Thomas Macera was inducted into the VSU Athletic Hall of Fame in January 2022.

With all the coaching accomplishments Hansen has compiled, his coaching remains sharper than ever as VSU recently completed one of its most impressive seasons to date in 2011. The men’s team won the fifth national championship NCAA from Valdosta State and second for men’s tennis. The team compiled an outstanding 21-1 record with the lone loss coming to national powerhouse Armstrong Atlantic State. Valdosta State was undefeated in conference and never fell below second place in the ITA National Rankings.

The event is free and open to the public and comes to celebrate 50 years of coaching John Hansen and show off your skills against two outstanding former Blazers.

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