It was an uphill battle for North Florida Head Coach Audra Cohen. Cohen started at North Florida in June and was left with just four players and two months until the season, and the school year began.
“I spent so much time making sure I could just field a team,” Cohen said.
So naturally it was shocking when North Florida put together a 9-0 conference season and a 15-4 regular season.
“I absolutely had no idea that would happen. It’s been a wonderful surprise I guess you could say.”
Cohen had to scramble to put together her team. She picked up Lorena Aviles from Texas Tech and she was able to nab two players from Brazil with Marina Cunningham and Rebeca Pereira.
Snagging Lorena Aviles from Texas Tech has given the Ospreys a big boost on the court. Aviles and Player of the Year Aline Berkenbrock went 9-0 in No. 1 doubles and are ranked No. 66 nationally.
As a player she had a big forehand and didn’t have a great backhand. She says that she recruits players that are similar and these tactics have certainly served her well this season.
“I have to feel as though I trust my players and I obviously trust players more that play more similar to how I played when I was playing.”
Cohen says she also looks primarily for competitiveness.
“The better player doesn’t always win in college tennis. You just have to be the better competitor. That was something that going into recruiting I almost don’t even look at their strokes I just want to see how well they compete and how they compete in big moments.”
There were certainly a lot of big moments in this conference championship, particularly in the conference final. Both ETSU and North Florida were fighting tooth and nail and with the match coming down to No. 5 and 6 singles it was extremely tight.
“This team is so used to winning they expect nothing less. They expect to win every time they hit the court and they expect to find a way,” she said.
Cohen’s squad will now have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament after downing ETSU so they will have at least one more big moment remaining in the season.
“It’s awesome words can’t even explain it. I think that sometimes it doesn’t take so much talent to win. It doesn’t take the best recruiting class. It doesn’t take the most amount of operation budget. It doesn’t take all of those things. It takes a culture of winning.”