FLORENCE, SC – The Francis Marion University women’s and men’s tennis teams are ranked 13th and 14th respectively in the 2011 pre-season Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division II Top 50 national polls released this week. Three Patriots also appear in the individual pre-season rankings.
Senior Oshada Wijemanne is ranked third nationally among Division II men’s singles players, while sophomore Mona Blauen and senior Jitka Gavdunova are 31st and 35th respectively in the women’s national singles rankings. The two women are ranked fifth nationally in doubles.
The Patriot women return four letterwinners from last year’s 17-6 squad that reached the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament. All six of the losses were to teams ranked 11th or higher, including three losses to the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
The Francis Marion men return seven lettermen from last year’s 12-8 team that also reached both the semifinals of the PBC Tournament and finals of the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament. Seven of the team’s defeats were to squads that were nationally ranked, while the other loss was to a Division I opponent.
Wijemanne posted an 11-4 singles record in 2010 and this fall he reached the finals of the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional Tournament – where he beat the current No.13 and No.4 players before losing to the current No.2 player in the title match.
Last spring, both Blauen and Gavdunova registered 17-4 marks in singles play. As doubles partners, they compiled a 20-3 record, including a perfect 12-0 mark in Peach Belt Conference play.
Entering his 19th season at FMU, head coach Garth Thomson has directed the FMU women to a 234-155 record, while the men boast a 264-126 mark over that same time. The women have made five consecutive trips to the NCAAs and 10 in the past 16 years, while the Patriot men have made three straight appearances and 14 in the past 16 seasons.