New Coach Looks to Take Big South Men’s Tennis Challenge Head On

Men’s Tennis | 2/15/2022 5:20:00 PM

EAST GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T men’s tennis has a new head coach.

NC A&T men’s tennis is in a new conference.

NC A&T men’s tennis has three newcomers.

But you probably shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking all things are new within the men’s tennis program at NC A&T.

The Aggies open the 2022 season, at 3 pm, Friday, February 18 at Queens University of Charlotte. They entered their first season in the Big South Conference as the preseason pick to finish seventh out of eight teams.

New head coach Ansel Dejon Bivens enters his fifth season at NC A&T and his first season as the Aggies head coach. Bivens, a star player at Winthrop for two seasons, added two freshmen to his lineup, including Ethan Baly (Charleston, SC) and Eder Blanco (Madrid, Spain).

Don’t be deceived, however. It’s not all new. As it pertains to the Big South, Bivens helped Winthrop win the Big South in 2010 as a student-athlete. The following season he earned All-Big South honors. When it comes to returning players, the Aggies have plenty of those too.

Eadwyn Bacar (SO, Paris, France), Vasil Ivanov (SR, Kardzhali, Bulgaria), Esteban Lopez (JR, Bogota, Colombia), Nolan Martino (SR, Concord, NC) and Mike Ogundele (SO, Raleigh, NC) are back for another season in AggieLand.

Ivanov, the most decorated player in A&T men’s history, is back for his last stand. He won Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rookie of the year honors in 2019. In addition, Ivanov is a two-time All-MEAC selection with a 7-0 record against MEAC competition in singles play and a 5-1 record in doubles.
Meanwhile, Martino has nine singles wins going into his senior season, which includes a win over Duke University’s Samir Agadi, 7-6, 7-4 during the 2020 season. Lopez comes into his junior year with six wins in singles play. Ogundele won twice in singles play last season.

The duo of Ivanov and Lopez were formidable last season. They went 3-2 overall in doubles play with a 2-0 mark in the MEAC.

“We have a really strong freshmen class of solid tennis players coming in,” Bivens said. “Our freshmen are going to add assistance to our very solid nucleolus that started with Vasil from the beginning.”

The Aggies are coming off a strong fall season. Blanco won his bracket in the final fall tournament at Wake Forest over teammate Lopez. The two paired up and advanced to the doubles championship in their bracket, but fell to Duke’s doubles duo of Connor Krug and Niroop Vallabhaneni, 6-3.

Blanco became the first men’s tennis player to win an ITA regional since the program’s rebirth in 2015. He defeated UNC Greensboro’s Roger Rogowski 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the first round.

With a solid nucleolus 1-5 it’s going to allow us to be competitive. We are looking to go to the Big South and stomp our fist on the table,” said Bivens.
The Aggies hope to take their new, blend it with their veteran returners, to bring about their first-ever conference tournament championship. The Big South tournament starts with the first round, April 15-16 at selected campus sites. The semifinals and the finals are in Charlotte, NC, at Marion Diehl Park, April 22-23.

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