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 ninth consecutive year.
The 13-4 Patriots, who are ranked 18th in the latest national Top 30 poll, will play in one of two Mid-Atlantic Region Tournaments, May 3-4, in Spartanburg on the campus of USC Spartanburg.
The four-team regional consists of eighth-ranked USCS (19-1), 12th-ranked Lander University (13-4), 17th-ranked Anderson College (16-4) and FMU, and may be the toughest regional field, as no other regional boasts four top-20 programs. Lander won eight straight national titles between 1993 and 2000.
On Saturday, May 3, Lander will play Anderson at 10 a.m., while Francis Marion will face USCS at 2 p.m. The two winners will play on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the regional title and the right to advance to National Championship round of Sweet Sixteen in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 8-11.
The 61-team national tournament field includes five Peach Belt Conference schools and defending national champion BYU-Hawaii.
The Patriots, under the direction of 11th-year head coach Garth Thomson (162-73 career record), finished fourth during the Peach Belt Conference regular season and placed fifth at the recent Peach Belt Tournament. Playing an extremely tough 2003 schedule, all four of FMU’s losses were to nationally ranked opponents that earned invitations to this year’s Division II tournament.
One of the losses was a 6-2 decision to USCS on April 6 in Florence. Three of the singles matches went to three sets. FMU was to have played both Lander and Anderson during the 2003 regular season, but both matches were rained out.
The Patriot men have won their regional and advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” in three of the past five years (1998, 1999, 2001).