FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis teams will open their 2005 schedules, Saturday afternoon (Feb. 5) against nationally ranked Peach Belt Conference foe Georgia College & State University.
Both matches will start at noon on the Kassab Courts. The men will also be in action on Sunday when they entertain St. Andrews Presbyterian College at noon.
The Patriot women were to have opened their season on Friday (Feb. 4) at home against Presbyterian College, but that match has been postponed until March 15.
Longtime FMU head coach Garth Thomson welcomes back three letterwinners from last year’s 7-13 squad that saw all but one of its losses come at the hands of nationally ranked opponents.
Leading the returnees is sophomore Kamini Murugaboopathy (Chennai, India), last year’s team most valuable player. She occupied the No. 1 singles spot as a first-year player and compiled a 10-8 mark, while posting a 5-14 mark at No. 1 doubles. She will lead a young team comprised of three sophomores and four freshmen, including Florence natives Sarah Carmichael, Elizabeth Lee, and Sara Moyer.
FMU’s first opponent, GC&SU, is ranked eighth in the fall 2004 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Wingspan Top 40 poll.
Thomson has seven players returning on the men’s side. Last year’s squad ended the season ranked 25th with an 11-12 record. Nine of the team’s losses were to nationally ranked opponents, and four defeats were by narrow 5-4 decisions. The 2004 season also saw FMU miss the NCAA Division II national tournament for the first time in 10 years.
However, the Patriots are ranked 23rd in the fall ITA Wingspan Top 40 poll and enter the new campaign looking to return to the NCAAs.
The Patriots get an early test as their opening opponent is 15th-ranked GC&SU. In fact, all nine Peach Belt Conference schools that sponsor men’s tennis are listed among the top 32 positions in the poll.
Two returning Patriots are listed in the fall individual rankings. Junior Kevin Taylor (Benoni, South Africa) is ranked 16th among Division II singles players, and along with freshman Dananjaya Mayadunne (Colombo, Sri Lanka) is ranked 17th in doubles. Taylor reached the quarterfinal round of the Wilson/ITA Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in October, while Taylor and Mayadunne also advanced to the quarterfinals in doubles competition. Playing the No. 1 singles position last spring (2004), Taylor compiled an 11-8 record, while registering a 10-3 mark at the No. 1 doubles spot.
Also returning is sophomore Chatwinder Singh (Chandigarh, India), who was the 2004 team MVP. Playing at the No. 2 singles position, he compiled a 15-4 record, including 11 consecutive wins to close the season, and had a 6-2 mark against PBC competition. He also recorded a 13-9 doubles mark at the No. 1 slot.
The Francis Marion men have appeared in the end-of-the-season national poll each of the past nine years, and 10 of the past 11 seasons.
A two-time All-American as a player at FMU, and a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Thomson has posted coaching records of 173-87 for the men and 128-112 for the women in his 12 seasons as head coach.