FLORENCE, SC – Both the nationally ranked Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis teams will open their 2009 seasons on Sunday (Feb. 1) at local-rival Coker College. Both matches will begin at 2 p.m. in Hartsville.
The FMU men are ranked fifth according to the fall ITA national poll, their highest ranking ever. The Patriots return six lettermen from last year’s 19-6 squad that advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Houston, Texas, and ended the season ranked seventh nationally. The 19 victories equaled the team’s single-season record.
Leading the returnees is sophomore Oshada Wijemanne, who is currently ranked seventh among NCAA Division II men’s singles players. He posted a 19-4 singles mark in 2008, mostly at the No. 2 position, and a 16-6 doubles mark at the No. 1 spot.
Other top returnees include sophomore Dilshod Sharifi (22-1 at #3 singles, 17-6 doubles), sophomore Karl Rogers (16-4 at #5 singles), and senior Dananjaya Mayadunne (18-6 at #2 doubles).
The women’s team is ranked eighth in the fall ITA national poll. The Patriot women return four players from last year’s program-best 23-3 squad that ended the year ranked fifth and also advanced to the Division II Elite Eight. FMU’s only three losses were to the national champion (twice) and to the national runner-up (once).
Juniors Tereza Sykorova (21-2 at No. 1 singles, 24-2 at No. 3 doubles) and Valeska Ibscher (16-4 at No. 5 singles, 22-4 at No. 2 doubles) head the returnees. Sykorova, an All-America in 2008, is currently ranked ninth nationally among Division II singles players. The newly formed doubles team of Sykorova and Ibscher is ranked eighth in the nation.
FMU head coach Garth Thomson is entering his 17th season as head coach of both the Patriot programs. He owns career coaching marks of 236-112 on the men’s record, with 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament, and 197-144 on the women’s side, with eight NCAA national tournament appearances.
The FMU men will play host to Pfeiffer University on Friday, Feb. 6, while the Patriots women will entertain Division I Presbyterian College on Friday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. for their home opener.