ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s tennis team is a preseason pick to finish in eighth place in this year’s Big South Conference season The Big South Conference announced the preseason poll this week.


The Bulldogs open the 2014 season at home on Sunday when they host Mars Hill College starting at 3 p.m. Admission for matches at the Asheville Racquet Club Downtown is free. Asheville hosts East Carolina on Monday at 10 a.m.


First-year coach Tom Hand knows the Bulldogs have some good players to replace from last year’s team but believes his team will be a contender in 2014.


“We’ve got some talented returnees plus some new guys who have a chance to make an impact right away,” commented Hand. “Our guys worked hard in the fall and posted some good results across the board.”


Coastal Carolina was picked first in the preseason poll, followed by Campbell, Winthrop, Liberty, Presbyterian, Radford, Gardner-Webb and then UNC Asheville. Longwood was picked ninth.


Five lettermen return from last year’s club that finished with an 11-10 overall record in 2013. Asheville will have no seniors on this year’s roster. The juniors are John Schubel and Will Goldberg. A talented sophomore class will be led by Alex Croker, Daniel Kripak and Brett Landau.


Newcomers include sophomore transfer Thomas Orestis-Panoulas. He comes to the Bulldogs after transferring in from Texas Pan-American. Two freshmen will battle for playing time in Reid Dillon and Josh Swindler.