FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University men’s tennis team learned Thursday that it has earned an invitation to participate in the NCAA Division II Tournament for the eighth consecutive year.
The 16-7 Patriots, who are ranked 12th in the latest national Top 30 poll, will play in one of two Mid-Atlantic Region Tournaments, May 3-4, in Jacksonville, Fla., on the campus of the University of North Florida. The four-team regional consists of top-seeded and seventh-ranked North Florida (19-6 record), second-seeded FMU, third-seeded and 17th-ranked Lees-McRae College (15-7), and fourth-seeded and 18th-ranked USC Spartanburg (13-6).
The other Mid-Atlantic Regional will be hosted by Lander University on the same dates.
On Friday, at times yet to be determined, Francis Marion will play Lees-McRae, while UNF will meet USCS. The two winners will play on Saturday for the regional title.
The 58-team national tournament consists of 16 regionals. Each regional champion will advance to the national finals (Sweet Sixteen), May 9-12, in Kansas City, Mo.
The Patriots, under the direction of 10th-year head coach Garth Thomson (148-68 career record), finished third during the Peach Belt Conference regular season and placed fourth at the recent Peach Belt Tournament. Playing an extremely tough 2002 schedule, all seven of FMU’s losses were to nationally ranked opponents that earned invitations to this year’s Division II tournament.
Rollins College, whom FMU lost to 6-3 on March 23, is the defending Division II national champion, while fellow PBC member Lander University captured the previous eight national titles (1993-2000).
The Patriot men have won their regional and advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” in three of the past four years (1998, 1999, 2001).