COCHRAN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Thirteen months ago, Middle Georgia College and Macon State College merged to make Middle Georgia State College.
Not long after that, the school announced it was adding two new sports: men's and women's tennis. The guys and girls got their first season under way earlier this month. They're part of the first college tennis teams in Cochran since the early 2000s.
"It's a pretty cool experience, building a new team that's starting up, being on a new team that's all new people and meeting new people," Austin Ross, a freshman, says. "There's a new coach setting up new foundations, but he's making sure that we stay focused on everything."
Tom Bates, MGSC's head tennis coach, is no stranger to the sport. He comes to Cochran after two years as head coach at Wesleyan College in Macon.
"The college competition is very intense," Bates says. "It's a great character builder because it's just you against your opponent. You either get the job done or you don't. I think most players like that about it."
After giving it a try, I can admit the sport is definitely harder than it looks.
"A lot of people underestimate the sport," Tricia Wharton, a freshman, says. "They just think, 'Oh, tennis is easy. You just pick up a racket and hit it in the court.' But it's way more than that. There's tons of different ways to hit the ball, footwork, you've got to stay in shape. It's also a really big mental sport too, which a lot of people don't think it is."
Even if you're not going to be the next star at Wimbledon, you can still come watch the Knights.
"We welcome anybody to come out and watch the matches, from the high school to the residents here," Bates says. "I know there are some players in town--I know them personally--so I expect to see them here. We will welcome any support. Let's get something good going here in Cochran."
The Knights open their home season with two matches Saturday starting at 9 a.m. Admission is free.