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Patriot tennis teams open play in NCAA Tournament

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s tennis team will begin play in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Sunday afternoon (April 29), while the Patriot men will get into action on Monday (April 30).

The 10th-ranked and third-seeded Francis Marion women (17-3) will play in the Southeast Regional #2 in Columbus, Ga. FMU will face 29th-ranked and sixth-seeded Wingate University (18-4) at noon on Sunday. Seventh-ranked and second-seeded Columbus State (25-2) will play 30th-ranked and seventh-seeded Georgia College (13-10) in the other first-round match on Sunday at 9 a.m. The matches will be played at the Mary V. Blackmon Tennis Center on the CSU campus.

The two winners will meet on Monday at 2 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 National Championships at the Top Gun Tennis Academy in Louisville, Ky., on May 16-19 as a part of the 2012 NCAA DII Spring Championship Festival.

The probable singles line-up for the Patriots will be: senior Jitka Gavdunova (17-2 season record) at No.1, junior Mona Blauen (18-1) at No.2, junior Tereza Baranova (12-1) at No.3, sophomore Kimberley Hurter (15-4) at No.4, freshman Julia Graf (16-2) at No.5, and sophomore Caitlin Siney (5-3) at No.6. Three Patriots are ranked among Division II’s Top 50 singles players: Gavdunova (#11), Blauen (#21), and Baranova (#43).

The doubles line-up will consist of Gavdunova and Blauen (18-2) at No.1, Baranova and Graf (13-3) at No.2, and Hurter and junior Kerry Hall (5-3) at No.3. Gavdunova and Blauen are ranked seventh nationally among Division II doubles duos.

After missing the tournament in 2011, the Francis Marion women return to the NCAAs for the sixth time in seven years, and the 11th time in the past 18 years. FMU captured regional championships in 2008 and 2009.

FMU beat the Wingate women 9-0 on March 20 in Florence, and the Patriots have won the past nine meetings dating back to 1998.

The 10th-ranked and fifth-seeded Patriot men (10-6) will play 29th-ranked and fourth-seeded Georgia College (11-8) on Monday at 2 p.m. at Bacon Park in Savannah, Ga.

Play at the men’s regional actually begins on Sunday when eighth-seeded Wingate (18-6) faces ninth-seeded Mount Olive College (18-6) in a 4 p.m. first-round match. The winner of that match will face top-ranked, top-seeded, and host Armstrong Atlantic State University (24-0) in the semifinals on Monday at 2 p.m.  

The two semifinal winners will meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday for a berth in the Men's Sweet 16 National Championships, also in Louisville, Ky.

The probable singles line-up for the FMU men will be: junior Alex Caspari (14-2) at No.1, senior Jack Bishop (5-11) at No.2, freshman Gavin Davison (8-7) at No.3, freshman Jonathan Hain (10-5) at No.4, sophomore Tim Ruepke (7-5) at No.5, and senior Dirk Bair (9-2) at No.6. Caspari is the 13th-ranked singles player in Division II.

The doubles line-up will include Caspari and Davison (12-4) at No.1, Bishop and Hain (7-9) at No.2, and Ruepke and Bair (9-7) at No.3. Caspari and Davison are ranked fifth nationally.

This is the fifth consecutive trip to the NCAAs for the FMU men, and the 16th in the past 18 years.   The Patriots are 13-15 all-time in NCAA tournament competition. Francis Marion won a regional title in 2008, lost in the regional semifinals in 2009 and 2011, and advanced to the regional title match in 2010.

Francis Marion defeated Georgia College 6-3 on March 11 in Florence, but was upset by the Bobcats 5-3 at the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. The Patriots hold a slight 12-10 edge in the past 22 meetings dating back to 1998, with nine of the matches being decided by narrow 5-4 scores.

Long-time FMU head coach Garth Thomson has directed the Patriot men to a 284-140 record in 20 seasons, while his women’s mark stands at 262-165.

#114/4-28-12

Last Published: May 25, 2012 9:29 AM
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