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. This marks the Patriots’ 10th trip to the NCAAs in the past 11 years.
The 17-5 Patriots, who are ranked 22nd in the latest national Top 40 poll, will play in one of two Mid-Atlantic Region Tournaments, May 5-6, in Savannah, Ga., on the campus of Armstrong Atlantic State University.
The four-team regional consists of fourth-ranked AASU (18-6), 13th-ranked Georgia College & State University (17-6), Shaw University (18-4), and FMU.
On Thursday, May 5, Shaw will face AASU at 1:30 p.m., while Francis Marion will meet GC&SU at 3:30 p.m. The two winners will play on Friday at 2 p.m. for the regional title and the right to advance to the National Championship round of Sweet Sixteen in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 11-14.
The 59-team national tournament field includes six Peach Belt Conference schools and defending national champion University of West Florida.
The Patriots, under the direction of 13th-year head coach Garth Thomson (190-92 career record), finished fifth during the Peach Belt Conference regular season and fifth at the recent PBC Tournament. Despite playing an extremely tough 2005 schedule, the team’s 17 victories are only one win shy of the season record set in 1999 and 2000. All five of FMU’s losses were to nationally ranked opponents and all were by narrow 5-4 decisions.
Among those losses were a season-opening 5-4 loss to GC&SU, Feb. 5 in Florence, and a 5-4 loss to the Bobcats in the recent Peach Belt Tournament in Spartanburg. In the first meeting, four of the six singles matches went to three sets, while three went to three sets in the more recent meeting.
FMU rebounded from an 11-12 mark in 2004 and a season that saw the Patriots miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 seasons. This year’s squad is young, with no seniors appearing on the roster.
Three times the Patriot men have won their regional and advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen”: 1998, 1999, and 2001.