FLORENCE, SC – The nationally ranked Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis teams will open their 2010 seasons when they play host to local-rival Coker College on Tuesday at 2 p.m. on FMU’s Kassab Courts. Admission is free.
The Patriot Women are ranked fifth and return three letterwinners from last year’s 20-5 squad that advanced to the NCAA Division II’s round of Sweet 16 (for the second straight year).
The top returnees include senior Tereza Sykorova, who is ranked sixth nationally among Division II women’s singles players, junior Sabina Baberadova (ranked eighth), and junior Jitka Gavdunova (ranked 26th). The doubles duo of Sykorova and Baberadova is ranked second nationally in Division II, while Gavdunova and freshman Kerry Hall are listed at the No. 18 position.
In two seasons at Francis Marion, Sykorova has recorded a singles mark of 38-8 and is 47-4 in doubles play. Gavdunova was 21-1 at the No.3 singles spot in 2009, while Baberadova was 20-3, mostly at the No.5 position.
Sykorova and Baberadova reached the finals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) NCAA Division II doubles championships last fall in Mobile, Ala.
The team’s No.5 ranking equals the program’s highest ranking ever – previously achieved in each of the past two seasons. FMU finished third during the 2009 Peach Belt Conference’s regular season, lost in the PBC Tournament title match, and then earned the program’s ninth NCAA Tournament invitation in the past 15 years – where the Patriots captured their second straight Southeast Regional title. Over the past two seasons, Francis Marion is a combined 43-8, with seven losses to opponents ranked in the Top 5 and the other loss was to an NCAA Division I opponent.
The Patriot men are ranked 14th entering the 2010 campaign and return six lettermen from last season’s 16-6 squad that earned the program’s 13th national tournament invitation in the past 15 years.
Juniors Oshada Wijemanne and Dilshod Sharifi lead the returnees. Wijemanne is ranked ninth in Division II singles, while Sharifi is 17th. Their doubles team is ranked second nationally, after reaching the finals of last fall’s ITA NCAA Division II doubles championships in Mobile. Wijemanne owns a 34-6 single record in his two previous seasons, while Sharifi is 39-3. The two have combined for a 20-5 doubles mark, although they have also teamed with other players at times.
Junior Karl Rogers also returns. He has amassed a 27-11 singles record over the past two seasons while playing at every rung on the singles ladder. Other returnees include junior Mickey Poirier (1-1 singles record in 2009) and sophomores Dirk Bair (13-5) and Jack Bishop (7-3).
The Patriot men will face a 19-match schedule in 2010 that includes 11 home matches, while the women have a 20-match slate with 10 home contests. Both teams will close out their regular seasons at Division I opponent South Carolina State University, April 10 in Orangeburg. The PBC men’s and women’s tournaments will return to Morrow, Ga., for a second straight year.
Garth Thomson, a 1991 graduate of FMU and a two-time NAIA All-America, enters his 18th season as head coach of both Patriot programs. He has guided the FMU men to a 252-118 record and 13 trips to the NCAA Division II national tournament, while the Patriot women are 217-149 and have nine NCAA tournament appearances.