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The Radford University women’s tennis and basketball teams are both under new leadership this year.
Martin Sayer (women’s tennis) and Mike McGuire (women’s basketball) are causing widespread excitement amongst RU students and fans.
Martin Sayer attended RU and was a member of the tennis team (2005-2009). During his tenure as a Highlander, he took the tennis program to new heights.
After starting his freshman year by upsetting top players throughout the country, he was ranked 17th in the nation at the start of the spring season of his first year as a Highlander. He continued on throughout his collegiate career as a highly ranked player.
He led the team to three straight Big South titles and a program-high ranking of 47th in the country. He was a four-time Big South Player of the Year and had a 114-25 record in his four years as the number one singles player for the Highs.
He holds the record for all-time wins in RU tennis history.
His on-court leadership and prestige correlates off the court as well.
After graduating and earning his MBA, Sayer coached with success at a variety of different institutions, which includes being an assistant as an RU men’s tennis coach, a coach at Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, NC, and a head women’s tennis coach at Virginia Tech.
After leading Tech to a successful season in his time there, Sayer decided to head back to his alma mater.
Sayer said, “It was a really good opportunity. I felt that I had all the tools I needed from my previous experiences…I really have a passion for Radford and I just want to see if we can give it a go and take the program to great heights.”
After a disappointing 7-16 season last year, RU women’s tennis has new faces and a new plan in hopes to have a more successful future. Sayer fits that plan.
“I’m really excited to see what we can do this year. It’s going to be a process. We have to build from pretty much the bottom and work our way up and see what we can do with it.”
The second new face that’s taking over a coaching position at RU is Mike McGuire.
In his 17th year of coaching, McGuire has made a definite impact in the basketball world.
He coached the Hidden Valley High School women’s team in Roanoke, Va. and led them to back-to-back Virginia Group AA state titles in 2007 and 2008. In his time there he established an impressive 55-5 overall record.
He moved onto coaching college basketball and became the assistant women’s basketball head coach of the University of Richmond Spiders. In his five seasons there, he recorded a 101-60 record. He also led the Spiders to five straight postseason appearances.
McGuire spent his first two years of undergrad at RU, so he is now back at his alma mater as well, coaching at the University that he learned to love over the years.
McGuire said, “Basketball is very important to this institution, especially to the athletic department. I like the direction that President Kyle is going…I think the institution is headed in a great direction, I think it’s a great time to be here.”
Although there is much excitement for the team, the challenge of rebuilding a team isn’t something that he looks past.
“Every time there’s change, the big thing is we want to make sure we implement the culture of how we want to do things. The work ethic, the commitment, the sacrifice you have to make,” said McGuire.
He continued, “We’ve got good pieces, (but) we have a lot of inexperience.”
With three freshmen and only one senior on the squad, experience is definitely something that the team lacks.
Injuries are making the process more difficult as well.
The lone senior, Breshara Gordon, is fighting an ACL injury. Center La-She’ Walker, forward Jordynn Gaymon, and center Rachael Ross are all also sidelined for the time being.
McGuire said, “If you watch us in November, we’re not going to be 100%. I think once we get around exam time (December) we should have almost everybody back.”
Regardless of the challenges that McGuire and the Highlanders are going to face, he still has great hopes for the team and the program in the future.
“There’s one thing we want to make a priority and that’s getting involved with the campus,” McGuire Said. “I would like to meet with different parts of the student body on campus and learn how we can make this a really nice, neat, fun atmosphere for the students to come out and watch basketball in the winter. Right now we’ve got some work to do there…”
“I want the student body to know, I want the faculty to know, this is not just our program, it’s the whole schools’ program. Hopefully we can get to where it feels that way.”
There is much excitement and anticipation surrounding the recent coaching changes at RU. Though the rebuilding process is tough, RU added two coaches that are fit for the job and the process of starting from the bottom.