NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennis coach Monroe Walker III announced his first signing class at Tennessee State. Walker has inked six women and five men to join the two tennis teams for the 2015-15 academic year. The signees will be a part of the largest classes to be brought in for each program.
“It was really important for me to build a foundation with my first recruiting class at TSU,” Walker said. “To move forward, we have to make sure we get the right players in to build a great future. I am really excited about the young men and women we’re bringing in and hopefully we can compete well, give a good effort and work hard on and off the court. We would like to bring some success to the program this fall and spring season.”
The women welcome freshmen Ani Popiashvili, Abhilasha Vishwanath, Pragati Natraj, Phoenix Gandy and Blair Moses. Walker also added junior college transfer Taylor Patterson to round out the class.
Popiashvili will enter her freshman season after transferring from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi University in Tbilisi, Georgia. Popiashvili was ranked as high as eighth in her country as a junior and studied under coach Gaga Dolidze.
Vishwanath worked with coach Niagara Revanasiddaiah and was ranked 44th in India. Vishwanath is from Bangalore, India and attended D.A.V. Public School and Teresian University College.
Natraj is also from Bangalore and went to the National Institute for Open Schooling. Natraj earned the Most Outstanding Player and Most Promising Player in the State. Her play under coach Peter Vijay Kumar helped her reach a ranking of 15th in India.
Gandy played No. 2 singles at Greater Atlanta High School and works with coach Jimmy Chupp. Gandy was a member of the WTT Billie Jean King Junior National Tennis Team in San Diego 2014-15. The Georgia native is a National Merit finalist and is a member of the Honor Roll.
Moses earned a District and a Regional Championship in doubles action in 2014 for coach Daniel Jerden at Cordova High. As an individual, Moses finished second in District, advancing to Regionals. The Memphis, Tenn. product was a member of DECA as a senior. Moses worked privately with Arveal Turner of the Epiphany Tennis Courts.
Patterson attended Munford High School in Olive Branch, Miss. before spending two seasons at Itawamba Community College. Patterson earned State and Regional Singles Flight-2 Championships, State and Regional Singles Flight-1 Championships and a State and Regional Flight-1 Doubles Championship, while making the Dean’s List and graduating with honors. The transfer was ranked 32nd in the nation in Singles and 30th in doubles.
At Munford HS, Patterson, was a three-time Regional and District Champ, won a doubles District Championship and was named Freshman of the Year. In the classroom, Patterson made the Honor Roll and was a member of the National Honor Society.
On the men’s side, Walker has added three freshmen and two transfers. Amir Daniel, Norian Moss and Jorge Daniel Rodriguez enter as first years’, while Mathew Brown and Shashank Nautiyal come to TSU as sophomores.
Daniel played one or two singles for Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, Georgia and earned MVP honors for three consecutive seasons. Daniel worked with coach Robin Wesley and is ranked 200th in the South for USTA.
Moss teamed with Daniel and shared the top singles positions at AMHS as a three-year letter winner. The Decatur, Ga. product was selected as the Coan Tennis Association High School Player of the Year. Moss was a member of FBLA, the Photography Club, the Fashion Club, and the Kappa League. Moss worked with coach James Harrell.
Rodriguez hails from Bogota, Columbia where he is ranked 7th in the country. Rodriguez was recognized as top player at his high school, Colegio, Alejandria. Rodriguez is schooled by coach Hermanos Rincon.
Brown will join the Tigers after spending one year at Western Kentucky. Brown prepped at Franklin High School and earned a USTA ranking of 25th in the state and 150th in the Southern Region. Brown is a former member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and was coached by his father, Mike Brown.
Nautiyal rounds out the recruiting class as he transfers in from Ball State University. The Delhi, India native finished 3-4 in his only season with the Cardinals. Nautiyal ranked second in his country and was a Junior Davis Cup Member for India. He won three Gold Medals in National School (India Juniors) and represented India in the World Junior Final Championship. Nautiyal was coached by Aditya Sachdeva and Gaurav Sharma, as well as fitness trainer Rajiv Dhingra.
“It was very important for us to have a full team,” said Walker. “We’ll have seven men and eight ladies for this upcoming year, so now we can push each other and compete. Most importantly, just to have a full squad, which we haven’t had in a long time here.”
Women’s Team Signees
Ani Popiashvili - Tbilisi, Georgia (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi University)
Abhilasha Vishwanath – Bangalore, India (D.A.V. Public School/Teresian University College)
Pragati Natraj – Bangalore, India (National Institute for Open Schooling)
Phoenix Gandy – Atlanta, Ga. (Greater Atlanta HS)
Blair Moses – Memphis, Tenn. (Cordova HS)
Taylor Patterson – Olive Brach, Miss. (Munford HS/Itawamba CC)
Men’s Team Signees
Amir Daniel – Lithonia, Ga. (Arabia Mountain HS)
Matthew Brown – Franklin, Tenn. (Western Kentucky)
Norian Moss – Decatur, Ga. (Arabia Mountain HS)
Shashank Nautiyal – Delhi, India (Ball State)
Jorge Daniel Rodriguez – Bogota, Columbia (Colegio, Alejandria)