The 2023-24 UCF Knights Athletics season is underway, and in honor of UCF’s accession into the Big 12 Conference, we will present our version of 12 for 12. For the next 12 days, we will tackle what we think are the 12 biggest questions facing UCF Athletics in the coming year across all sports.
Our next question comes from two sports with one head honcho:
6. Can Bryan Koniecko continue UCF Tennis’ momentum?
Jeff: Definitely, and I think timing is a big factor here.
First, he’s spent plenty of time alongside the guy who hand-picked him, John Roddick, learning the ropes of running two programs at once, so he knows what the program needs to compete. Second, he has already proven himself to be a deft and sharp recruiter, as the results of his tenure have shown.
But most importantly, he’s taking over the reins as UCF gears up for an even greater investment in tennis. The move down to Lake Nona was a boost for the program, but it has also long been known that UCF needs an on-campus home for tennis. That is on the docket for the coming years with the Big 12 move now a reality. So I think it stands to reason that Koniecko’s leadership will bring continued success
Bryson: I don’t see why not. Koniecko’s Director of Tennis predecessor John Roddick hired him to coach the women’s team for a reason. The women have even had more team success on-court than their male counterparts with five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, four wins in the 1st Round, and two AAC titles.
The men’s team were one win away from securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament last season despite being made up of mostly freshman. So, the talent is already there, it’s just a matter of how Lloyd Bruce-Burgess, now the men’s head coach after serving as Koniecko’s assistant on the women’s team, handles it.
As for the women, they will have to replace the dependable Nandini Sharma and top player Marie Mattel, but it will be with players that are coming into the 2024 dual match season further removed from injuries that kept them out for some portion of the 2023 season.
Koniecko has more than proved his abilities as a coach and has spent the last six years learning from Roddick’s example as the Director of Tennis. Thus, he is perfectly suited to take over what he started.
Andrew: Absolutely. Orlando is a hotbed for tennis. The United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), an organization that helps develop tennis coaches and teachers, has its headquarters in Orlando, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the national governing body for tennis in the USA, has its national campus with over 100 tennis courts. UCF uses the USTA national campus facility for its home matches and it’s helped host the NCAA Championships multiple times since it opened in 2019 (2019, 2021, 2023). This basically makes Orlando ground zero for tennis in America.
As the local university using those top-notch facilities, UCF makes playing for the Knights a very attractive proposition for Division I quality tennis players.