FLORENCE, SC – Both the nationally ranked Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis teams will travel to Morrow, Ga., this weekend for the 2009 Peach Belt Conference Tournaments, which are being hosted by Clayton State University at the Clayton County Tennis Center in Jonesboro, Ga.
The winner of each single-elimination event will capture the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament, while other squads are vying for at-large invitations.
The women’s tournament will begin with three matches on Friday at 11 a.m., while the men will open with three matches on Friday at 2 p.m. Both championship matches are set for Sunday at noon.
Neither FMU squad will play on Friday. The FMU men will play USC Aiken on Saturday at 8 a.m., while the Patriot women will play the Georgia College & State University/Georgia Southwestern State University winner on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Tournament semifinals are scheduled for Saturday at 3 and 6:30 p.m.
The PBC men’s tournament will be one of the premier Division II events in the nation with seven of the league’s nine teams ranked in the latest ITA national poll, by far the most from any single conference. PBC singles players also account for more than 25% of the top 50 ranked players in the country.
Sixth-ranked Georgia College & State University is the No.1 seed for the men’s tournament, while Francis Marion (15-4) is the fifth seed. The Patriots enter the PBC tournament on a five-match win streak and are ranked 17th nationally. FMU is led by Oshada Wijemanne at No.1 singles who is ranked 10th nationally and owns a 14-2 season record, while Dilshod Sharifi at No. 2 singles has a 16-2 season mark and is ranked 22nd. The two sophomores also form FMU’s No.1 doubles team and are 14-2 and ranked sixth nationally.
All four of FMU’s losses have been to teams ranked 18th or higher in the national poll.
Armstrong Atlantic State University (21-1), in a strange twist, will be the No.2 seed in the PBC Tournament despite being the top-ranked team in the nation and defending national champions.
Like the men, the PBC women’s tournament will be one of the top Division II women’s events in the nation with six teams ranked in the latest ITA national poll. PBC singles players also account for more than 25% of the top 50 ranked players in the country.
AASU will again be the No.1 seed for the women’s draw. The Lady Pirates won their 15th PBC championship in the regular season by going undefeated in conference play for the sixth year in a row, and have won 62 straight regular-season conference matches dating back to 2003. The defending Division II national champion, AASU is 19-1 overall and ranked third in the nation.
The Francis Marion women (16-3) have won four straight matches and are seeded third after finishing the PBC schedule with an 8-2 record. The Patriots are ranked eighth in the nation and for the first time ever will be a top-3 seed in the PBC Tournament for back-to-back tournaments. FMU is led by Tereza Sykorova at No.1 singles. The junior is ranked 18th in the nation with a 16-3 dual match record. Sophomore Kristyna Horakova enters the PBC Tournament with a 15-2 singles record at the No. 2 position and is ranked 48th in the nation. Horakova and Jitka Gavdunova are 16-0 in doubles and ranked 17th in Division II.
Overall, the Patriot women have lost only six doubles matches in 57 outings this spring.
Neither FMU tennis team has ever won a PBC Tournament championship. The Patriot men lost in the 2001 title match, and the women lost in last year’s championship match.
Results can be found on the tournament website at http://www.athletics.clayton.edu/pbctennis09.htm