Photo by Heather Middleton
By Doug Gorman
It's already been a banner year for the Clayton State athletic department.
When it won the NCAA Division II National title in women's basketball, the whole country learned a thing or two about the lake-lined school in Morrow.
The men's soccer team also advanced to the Elite 8.
It's not over just yet. The women's tennis team has a chance to bring more attention to the college as it heads to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
The tournament is at Columbus State.
The Lakers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row and the ninth time in school history.
Clayton State finished the regular season with a 14-7 record and ranked No. 12 in the country. They open against Wingate (21-1), the South Atlantic Conference champs.
First-year head coach LeTrone Mason has enjoyed his inaugural season with Clayton State.
"It's a great honor coaching a team that went to the Sweet 16 last year," he said. "Now, we are getting back to the tournament, and we want do at least the same thing, and maybe take it further.
The tournament will give Viktoriya Semyrodenko (Donestk Ukraine) and Katie White (Wolverhampton, England) a final curtain call as the two seniors close out their college tennis careers.
Semyrodenko has a 12-6 singles record, while White is 11-7.
Semyrodenko and doubles partner Ivana Krommelova are 13-5. White and her doubles partner Marie Cercelletti are 13-7.
"It's been great getting the chance to coach my two seniors, Viktoriya and Katie," Mason said. "We have all had a chance to get to know each other, and the whole team has done a nice job all year.
For White and Semyrodenko, closing their tennis careers with a national title has now become the goal.
"In your senior year you want to go out in style," White said.
The duo has helped put CSU on the college tennis map.
"We are always working together, and just trying to help each other get better." Semyrodenko said. "Of course we are always trying to play better than each other."
White says the friendship has helped the two improve their games.
"We are able to point out each other's strengths," she said. "We are able to see what we need to work on, and that just makes us better."
Mason admits the CSU basketball team's national title has raised the bar for the rest of the athletic programs at the school.
"It forces us all to step our game up," Mason said. "To get to that same level would be something great."