NCAA championship

Hometown Heroes Pt. 2 – NCAA Div 1 National Champions

NCAA Div 1 National Champions

If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook then you know that the Virginia Cavaliers men’s tennis team and the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team are the 2017 NCAA Div. 1 National Champions. For the Cavaliers, becoming Back-to-Back-to-Back National Champions (three-peat) puts them in the same conversation as the ’98-’00 Yankees, the ’00-’02 Lakers, and the ’13-’16 UConn Women’s basketball team. For the Gators, this win marks their

Florida Gators Womens tennis 2017 NCAA National Champions
2017 NCAA Women’s Tennis National Champions

7th National Championship, making the Women’s tennis team the most prolific team in Florida Gators history! The closets to the Gators are the Men’s golf and the Women’s gymnastics teams with four championships to their credit. Congratulations.

The NCAA Championships began at regional sites across America as each of the top 16 seeded teams would host the first and second rounds. The Sweet 16, through the Finals, would be held on the campus of the University of Georgia. And in case you are new to College tennis, these are the teams that hosted Regional matches:

Men’s Seeded Teams:

  1. Wake Forest
  2. Virginia
  3. Ohio State
  4. USC
  5. UCLA
  6. TCU
  7. Baylor
  8. California
  9. UNC
  10. Texas
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Georgia
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Florida
  16. Stanford

Women’s Seeded Teams

  1. Florida
  2. UNC
  3. Ohio State
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. Georgia
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Stanford
  8. Georgia Tech
  9. Oklahoma State
  10. Michigan
  11. Auburn
  12. Perrerdine
  13. California
  14. South Carolina
  15. Duke
  16. Baylor
TCU Men's tennis team
Big 12 Champions: TCU Horned Frogs

A couple of things jump out at me when I look at this list:

  1. Do any of these teams look familiar? They should. Many of the biggest Universities in America have not only football and basketball programs, but tennis teams, too!
  2. Florida isn’t the only place where they play tennis.
  3. Texas and Oklahoma seem to be the hottest tennis states.
  4. Lesser known “football” schools like Vanderbilt and Pepperdine have stellar tennis programs.

What is Your College Team Doing?

Watching the NCAA Championship play out over the course of 2 weeks was enjoyable, for me, primarily because of the Season that preceded it. From late January right up to the start of the Championship, players are growing together and developing into a Team. We see this in their interaction on Game Day and on their Instagram posts and Twitter timeline. We watch them struggle to overcome the opposition. We see them encourage each other after a loss. We see them celebrate together after a win. We see them playing practical jokes on each other, clowning in the gym, and being recognized by the student body at basketball games.

 And then comes the NCAA National Championship.

A season of struggle all comes down to one, meaningful, tournament. Noticeably different than their professional counterparts, College tennis only has one Major tournament. There are numerous invitationals during the course of the school year, but they are merely exhibitions designed to prepare teams for the NCAA Championship. In fact, there’s an individual tournament for both singles and doubles following the NCAA Championships, but by then the crowds have gone home, moving on to the College World Series, or something.

Tennis Night in America

Pac 12 Mens tennis Champions USCHere’s the point: tennis as a Team Sport is infinitely more enjoyable than tournaments. When cities like Charlottesville (Virginia) and Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Malibu (Pepperdine) have a team to gather around, the sport takes root in that territory. When the Oklahoma State Men’s tennis team makes the news it brings attention to tennis in Stillwater. When the Texas Tech Women’s tennis team visits the local Children’s Hospital in Lubbock the Red Raiders become a greater part of the Community. When the citizens have a tennis product they can be proud of they begin to display their tennis proudly. Much like the fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (me) everyone knows where we belong. We are Buckeyes. We say it loud. We say it proud. And if you’ve got a problem with that, we can take it outside!

We Are the Arsenal
The Community supports Arsenal

But seriously, Team Sports inspire a passion not found in individual sports. Which is why professional tennis SHOULD BE a team sport like it is in College. Just imagine what Sundays in the spring would be look like if it was Tennis Night in America; a day for the Community to embrace the local sports franchise, gather at the sports stadium, wear matching jerseys and t-shirts, and cheer in unison for their Home Town team. And when the Championships come around, tickets go on sale for $1,000! Can you see it?

We don’t have it yet, but I’ll keep dreaming it until we do. In the meantime, you can help me by supporting your local University; attend their matches, buy a hat and t-shirt, take pictures with the team and post them on Facebook. Make College tennis a part of your Community and let’s see how far we can take this thing!

GO TEAM!

#BestDayEver – Championship Saturday

That’s a big trophy!

Saturday, April 15, would mark the end of Season 15 of youth tennis with All American Team Tennis. And like we do every season, we held a big event that we like to call Championship Saturday. For those of you who are new to AATT, Championship Saturday is our “playoffs”; it’s the tournament at the end of a long season. Kinda like the NCAA Championships, but for little leaguers. It’s where our players, after a lot of trial-and-error, compete to find out who’s #1, in addition to rewarding our players for what they’ve accomplished during the season. Beginning with Season 14, Championship Saturday would also feature a visit from a highly-ranked University Tennis Team. Last season it was the Keiser Seahawks. This season it would be the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls! But more on that later.

During the course of the season, the League (me) kept track of a number of stats: W/L, Serves Held/Broken, and Total Points. We use these numbers to determine things like Point Differential and Turnovers and award the players who performed the best over the course of the 10-week season. Then on Championship Saturday, the winners of the tournament are our National Champions! We save the tournament until the end the Season because too many tournaments can cause “Tournament Burnout”. One big blowout is what most people are happiest with. And isn’t that why we play sports: to have a good time?

Season 15 Award Winners

One of our season-ending awards is the Pennant. This award

That’s my squad!

is given to the #1 team over the course of the 6-week Regular season. We awarded the top 6 players with the best W/L numbers in Doubles with this award. So for Season 15, the Pennant Winners were the Knights with a record of 4-2, and the top 6 players were Amaris, Emmanuel, Michael, Esteban, Alethea, and Ava (pictured right). Now, you’re probably wondering why the players are wearing different jerseys. It’s because All American Team Tennis is all about the “Team”. And to drive home that point, each player played on a different team each week of the season. It’s a way of building Community among tennis players. And isn’t that what sports are all about: Community?

MVP, Ava, and her Dad, Coach Daniel

Next up would be the MVP.  The MVP is the #1 player on the #1 team. This season our MVP was Ava. Now, this is where all of the stats come in as Ava would lead the League in Doubles wins, Buckeye Leafs, Point Differential, and Turnovers.

  • Doubles wins: 7 – 3 more than #2
  • Singles wins: 4 – 2 behind #1
  • Buckeye Leafs: 28 – 3 more than #2
  • Point Differential: +47 – Tied for #1
  • Turnovers: +9 – 2 more than #2

And her award for being the MVP was a backpack; which is symbolic of how she carried her team on her back. Get it?

It was the biggest lollipop I could find

Next, we recognized the Sportsmanship Award winners. This is an award where Coach Ken chooses the players who best exemplify the spirit of All American Team Tennis. AATT is about building Community among its players. Creating an atmosphere of camaraderie, teamwork, communication, and making friends. It is built on the pillars of Sportsmanship which are: Fairness, being Gracious, and Respect for others. I watched the players as they interacted with each other and looked for the ones who were kind, considerate, and just plain nice. I look for smiles and high-fives and listen for how the players talk to each other. For Season 15, the players who best exemplified the spirit of the “team” were Esteban, Rubie, and Alethea.

Season 15 National Champions, the Owls

And we’ve saved the best for last: the National Champions! This one is very straight forward: the winners on Championship Saturday are the National Champions (I told you it was simple). Since each team has players from ages 6 to 13, we would play two courts of doubles, one for ages 6-10, and another for ages 11-13 to determine a winner. The total games won would be added together and the team with the higher score wins. On this day, Championship Saturday, the Owls would come out on top by a score of 12-7. Isn’t it ironic that OUR Owls would come out on top on the same day the REAL Owls were in attendance?! Crazy!

The Best Team in Palm Beach County

Now for the really exciting part: the FAU Owls, the Greatest Tennis Players in Palm Beach County came to our tennis courts to inspire the next generation of tennis player! It may not seem like a big deal to many of you but considering tennis tournaments only come here once a year (pitiful), having a Home Town Team is gigantic! The FAU Owls are a Div. 1 tennis team in the Sun Conference. On their schedule are teams like Central Florida, Old Dominion, and the Miami Hurricanes. The Owls would finish the season at 17-6, going 11-1 at Home. Next up for the Owls are the Sun Conference Championships in Tennessee, April 21-23.

The reason why a visit from FAU is such a big deal is because “celebrity matters”; and everyone knows about Florida Atlantic University. Their football stadium hosts the Boca Raton Bowl on ESPN each year. And the school is making headlines not only with their sports teams, but with their academics, too. And as a Div. 1 university, the FAU Owls are verifiably the BEST group of tennis players in Palm Beach County. Yes, Serena Williams lives in Palm Beach Gardens, but let’s be real: she doesn’t play here and she’ll never come to Palm Springs… so who cares. On the other hand, the FAU Owls are the Home Team and play all of their Home games in Boca Raton. It’s true their players come from Florida, Spain, Brazil, and France. But they’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re Local. I can only imagine what would happen if there were a Professional tennis team playing here in Palm Beach County. What would it mean to the fanbase? Maybe THEN tennis could compete with other sports in terms of popularity. I’m being serious!

That’s Coach Ken on the left
I GOT IT!!!

After putting on a show for the fans, and signing a few autographs, Coach Ken would bring EVERYONE onto the court to play a game called Caterpillar. It’s a volley game, with six players at a time, rotating extra players in and out. You should have felt the energy on the courts. The kids were excited, the parents were cheering, FAU was getting into it, it was the BEST DAY EVER! How many people can say they “played Caterpillar with FAU”? Hmm? It was an experience our players will never forget. And hopefully enough motivation to keep them playing, and watching, tennis… at least until next season.

Field Trips and Championship Saturday happen every season but only the last two have featured a visit from a Special Guest. It takes time to develop that kind of relationship which is why the majority of kids would rather play basketball and soccer than tennis. And why, overall, Americans would rather watch football and baseball than tennis. Tennis tournaments aren’t around long enough to establish themselves withing the Community. On the other hand, College teams like Florida Atlantic and Miami and Ohio State are NEVER leaving. They belong to us. They’re OUR team. Can you feel the difference?

Opportunity Awaits

There is a gold mine of tennis talent laying dormant on our College campuses. It’s time we put these players to work promoting the game; visiting schools and Parks departments, hospitals and nursing homes, signing autographs, showing people how much fun this game is to play AND to watch. Becoming a part of the Community is how fans are made. Florida Atlantic University is a part of our Community. The players and coaches live, work, and play right here in South Florida. They are not playing for themselves, but rather for all of us. That kind of give-and-take is why I proudly wear the colors of the FAU Owls. #OwlsUp

GO TEAM! 

NCAA Individual Tournament Results

NCAA Individual Championship

In my opinion, tennis tournaments are probably the hardest to report on because there are too many players playing too many matches, too many consecutive days with not enough time in between to prepare for the next. I can only imagine what it is like to be a player, but as a spectator, it’s my job to sort through the clutter of activity to gather what’s important to the reader. Because other sports operate on a periodic schedule of games, rather than week-long tournaments, commentators are able to build anticipation for the next game on the schedule making it more exciting when following your favorite team.

I understand the thinking that ’More is better’, but what about “Too much of a good thing”? College tennis is the best method of conducting the sport and should be implemented on the professional level. Why? When you follow a team over the course of a season you begin to identify with them. It becomes appointment viewing. Every game matters and every game is important. Plus the players have enough time to rest during the season, they take fewer days off. This keeps the fans interested.

For example, have you ever heard someone, in reference to the weeks leading up to a Major tournament refer to those tournaments as “tune-up” events? That would imply that the tournament is of little value other than to prepare the favorites for the next big one. By diminishing the importance of Indianapolis or Atlanta or New Haven you diminish every player in the tournament making the event less appealing. Why would I go to this event if it doesn’t mean anything? It’s like watching your favorite football team: why would I pay to watch a game that doesn’t matter? When college tennis teams work their way through a schedule of matches, against teams from across the country, all for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship at the end, every game is important. The season is not a “warm up” to the tournament, but rather a qualification FOR the tournament. A loss at the wrong time could drop a team in the standings and out of the Championship. A win at the right time could mean an easier draw when they’re accepted. Institute a season of scheduled matches and add significance to professional tennis.

Below you will find the results of the individual NCAA Singles / Doubles Championship for 2015 for players on Florida teams. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s important to at least hear the names of players you are going to want to watch next season. Enjoy!

We can talk about why we’re playing this tournament another time.

For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!

WOMEN

florida-gators-logo

Gators Doubles

#6 Doubles team Sophomore Courtney Keegan and Freshman Brooke Austin

Defeated Shayne Austin/Briar Preston of Arizona, 6-2, 6-2

Defeated Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3

Defeated Taylor Davidson/Carol Zhao of Stanford, 6-0, 1-6, 6-4

Lost to Klara Fabrikova/Zsofi Susanyi of California, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4

May 22, 2015 – The Gators’ top doubles team of Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan advanced to the Round of 16 with a win over Arizona’s #27-ranked Shayne Austin and Briar Preston, 6-2, 6-2. Brooke Austin: “I thought we played really well… really aggressively.” Kourtney Keegan: “I don’t think it’s always easy… getting into a rhythm…. Getting a lead early helps you relax a lot…. You just feel more comfortable out there, and I think that helps a lot because you get more momentum that way.”

Gators Singles

#3 Freshman Brooke Austin – Lost in Round 1 to #47 Jennifer Brady of UCLA, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

#56 Sophomore Kourtney Keegan – Lost in Round 1 to #20 Carolina Price of UNC, 6-1, 6-3.

#28 Junior Brianna Morgan – Lost in Round 1 to #57 Madison Westby of USC, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4

#58 Sophomore Belinda Woolcock – Defeated Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine, 6-2, 6-3

Lost in Round 2 to Sabrina Santamaria of USC, 6-3, 6-3

#13 Freshman Josie Kuhlman – Defeated Kyle Phillips of UCLA, 6-4, 6-1

Defeated Viktoriya of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 6-4

Defeated Maegan Manasse of Cal, 6-4, 6-1

Defeated Sinead Lohan of Miami, 6-3, 6-4

Lost in Semifinals to Carol Zhao of Stanford, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0

Miami_Hurricanes mascot

Hurricanes Doubles

#17 Doubles team Senior Lina Lileikite and Junior Stephanie Wagner

Lost to #11 Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 6-2, 6-2

Hurricanes Singles

#37 Freshman Sinead Lohan – Defeated Lauren Herring of Georgia, 6-1, 6-4

Defeated Caroline Price of UNC, 7-6 (3), 7-5

Defeated Natalie Beazant of Rice, 7-5, 6-1

Lost to Josie Kuhlman of Florida in Quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4

#11 Junior Stephanie Wagner – Defeated Blair Shankle of Baylor, 6-3, 6-2

Defeated Beatrice Gumulya of Clemson, 6-2, 6-4

Defeated Saska Gavrilovska of Texas A&M, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4

Defeated #1 Robin Anderson of UCLA, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2

Lost to Jamie Loeb of UNC in Semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

 stetson flag

Stetson Singles

#91 Freshman Alizee Michaud – Lost to Jasmine Lee of Mississippi State, 6-0, 6-4

 

May 20, 2015 – #91-ranked Freshman Alizee Michaud endured an 0-6, 4-6 loss to Mississippi State’s Jasmine Lee in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship. This would be the first singles match Alizee has lost all season. Jasmine Lee was a first-team All-SEC selection and the #23-ranked player in America. A very tall order considering Michaud was playing for the first time since April 18, when Stetson lost to FGCU in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote: “I believe her slow start had to do with her going about a month without playing any meaningful tennis… the second set was more of the quality level of play that we are accustomed to seeing from Alizee.” Alizee Michaud finished the regular season as the 2015 Atlantic Sun Conference Player and Freshman of the Year.

MEN

north florida flag

North Florida Singles

#96 Sophomore Jack Findel-Hawkins – Lost to Roberto Quiroz of USC, 6-4, 6-3

Jack was playing in his first match in over two months after being sidelined with an injury which makes his #96 ranking even more impressive. He won the Bedford Cup in the fall and the first Osprey to earn entry into the NCAA Singles Championship.

USF logo brick wall

South Florida Doubles

#28 Doubles team Senior Oliver Pramming and Freshman Justin Roberts

Defeated Denis Nguyen/Brian Yeung of Harvard, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

Lost to Harry Jadun/John Patrick Mullane of Michigan State, 7-6 (0), 6-4

Congratulations to Oliver Pramming on a successful season with the Bulls, helping the team achieve a #18 ranking and capture its first AAC title. Looks like Justin Roberts will have to find a new doubles partner next season. But one-half of the #28 Doubles in the nation shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to play with.

South Florida Singles

#21 Junior Roberto Cid – Lost to Austin Smith of Georgia, 6-2, 7-6 (1)

Florida State Seminoles

Florida State Doubles

#16 Doubles team Juniors Benjamin Lock/Marco Nunez

Lost to Arjun Kadhe/Jakob Sude of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Florida State Singles

#44 Junior Benjamin Lock – Defeated Uros Petronijevic of San Diego, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (4)

Lost to Ryan Shane of Virginia in Round of 32, 6-2, 6-1

Hurricanes Women’s Tennis Fall in Sweet 16

The Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team had a very tall order in front of them in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. After handling the North Florida Ospreys in the first round, 4-1, and fighting off the Ole Miss Rebels, 4-3, they would next face the #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Hurricanes and Tar Heels had faced each other two times during the regular season with the Tar Heels coming out on top both times. But the Hurricanes were into the Round of 16 for the 10th consecutive season, and surging at just the right time.

The forecast for the day called for showers which is good and bad; good, because it would keep the temperature down. Bad, because the Tar heels are accustomed to playing indoors, and the Hurricanes would need all of the favorable “bounces” they could get.

The doubles matches were close at the start. Sinead Lohan and Stephanie Wagner led the charge on court 1 but a single break would tip the scales in favor of UNC, 5-4, and that’s all she wrote. UNC takes court one 8-4. On court two, Monique Albuquerque and Silvia Fuentes would struggle, never really gaining control over their UNC opponents, and dropping the deciding set 8-3. UNC takes the doubles point 2-0, Lileikite and Zhang did not finish.

Losing the doubles point certainly makes winning the match much harder, but the Hurricanes have 5 ranked singles players which means they still have a chance to take 4 of the singles and ultimately the match. Unfortunately, once the doubles matches had been played it started to rain, forcing the matches inside, which favors the Tar Heels. And due to the limited number of indoor courts the matches would be played 3 at a time. First up: Stephanie Wagner, Sinead Lohan, and Silvia Fuentes. Fuentes would be the first domino to fall losing the first set 0-6. Lohan would be next, dropping the first set, 3-6. Wagner would keep it close, winning the first set, 7-5. But it would not be Fuentes’ day as she would give court 3 to UNC, 0-6, 2-6. Lina Lileikite would take the court for the #4 singles match. On court two, Lohan battled to the very end. It looked very promising when she tied the score at 5-5 in the second set, but there was nothing left in the tank and Lohan would lose the match 3-6, 5-7. Wendy Zhang would take the court for the #5 singles match. On court one, Wagner would drop the second set, 2-6, sending #1 singles into a third set. You could feel the air leaving the room for the scrappy Miami team. On court 3, Lina does her best to keep the team afloat, taking the first set, 7-5, but on court two, Zhang drops the first set, 2-6. The one bright spot on the day would come from senior Lina Lileikite as she would take out the #102 player in America in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2, giving the Hurricanes their first point, they trail 3-1. Because shortly after Lina shook hands with her opponent, the Wagner match would finish with UNC on top, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. UNC moves on to the Elite 8 with a 4-1 victory over the Miami Hurricanes. The loss had to be the hardest on senior Monique Albuquerque as she would not get to play in the last match of her career as a Hurricane.

Coach Paige and Wagner

Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tewes: “I think UNC played a great match. We were expecting them to be on their game. I think Haley [Carter of UNC] started out so hot at no. 2 that it kind of set the momentum a little bit against us at the beginning….” She continued “We just didn’t play the doubles that I wanted us to play, but there were some bright spots.”

One of those bright spots would be the play of senior Lina Lileikite who would finish her singles career with a straight set win over a ranked opponent for Miami’s only point. On the season, Miami reached its 10th consecutive Sweet 16, finished in the top 4 of the ACC for the 11th year in a row, and is sending 3 players to the NCAA Individual Championship (Wait a Minute! Didn’t we just finish the NCAA Championship?!? Different Championship.) Wagner and Lohan will be competing in singles while Wagner and Lileikite will compete in doubles. This takes place May 20-25 at Baylor University.

It was a great season; one that Coach Paige can certainly build upon. Better luck next year. GO ‘CANES!

For more on the Miami Hurricanes follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.

Third Time’s The Charm

The University of Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team will meet the North Carolina Tarheels for the third time this season, but this time it’s in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. On the two previous occasions, UNC would come out on top; 4-0 on Feb. 7 and 5-2 on April 4. Pretty solid victories for the #2 team in the nation, but that was then and this is now. The Hurricanes are coming off of 2 solid wins in Regional play and playing some of their best tennis this season, accumulating ACC honors like a bookshelf collects dust, effortlessly.

wagner hurricanes player to watch

And leading the charge for the ‘Canes is the ITA Southeast Region Player to Watch, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner would finish the season as the 11-th ranked singles player in the country and be selected to the All-ACC First Team. She has a 13-3 singles record at the No. 1 position, and when paired with Senior Lina Lileikite, the two of them would rank as the no. 17 doubles team in the nation. Stephanie would be the last one standing in the Hurricanes match against Ole Miss in the second round of the Tournament. After taking the first set 6-1, she would go down 3-5 in the second. It looked like a third set would be necessary, but Wagner moved into second gear, rattling off 4 straight games, and taking the straight set victory 6-1, 7-5. The win would send her team into the Sweet 16 for the 10th consecutive year.

Lohan Hurricanes Leaping BH 2 Sinead Lohan – EXPLOSIVE!

In the no. 2 singles spot is the freshman out of Ireland, Sinead Lohan. Sinead would also earn All-ACC honors, placing 10th in the voting to make the second team. Lohan is the first player in Hurricanes history to be selected ACC Freshman of the Year; a sizeable accomplishment on a team with such history. Sinead currently sits as the #37-ranked singles player in the country in singles and with her partner, Wendy Zhang, possess a 9-4 record in doubles. In the first round of the Championship, against North Florida, Lohan downed her opponent 6-1, 6-1 and was the first player off the court. Against Ole Miss she routed her opponent 6-1, 6-3 and would, again, be the first one off the court. Her explosive play was too much for them to handle.

But wait, there’s more! the Hurricanes have a total of 5 nationally-ranked players compared to the Tarheels’ 4: #11 Wagner, #37 Lohan, #83 Clementina Riobueno, #108 Wendy Zhang, #115 Lina Lileikite. And in a best-of-seven match like those played in College tennis, the #2 team can fall at any time… like today at 10am against the Miami Hurricanes.

For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!

3 Florida Teams in the Sweet 16

Florida Representin’ In The NCAA Championship

4 teams from the state of Florida entered Round Two of the NCAA Championship on Saturday with 3 teams moving on to the Sweet 16. On the Women’s side we have the University of Florida Gators and the Miami University Hurricanes. On the Men’s side we have the Florida State University Seminoles and the University of South Florida Bulls. Four teams ranked throughout the year, two of them hosting regional matches, one of them winning their Conference Championship.

Let’s start with the bad news. I started by saying 3 out of 4 teams made it to the Sweet 16, so who missed the cut.? It saddens me to say that the Florida State Seminoles were knocked out in less-than-glorious fashion by the Georgia Bulldogs, 0-4.

FSU loss 0-4 georgia

Here’s the promo the Seminoles put out following their loss to the Bulldogs. Not sure if I would have made such a big deal out of such an embarrassing loss. But, anyway. The Seminoles now move into the off-season where Juniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez were selected to compete in the 2015 NCAA Div I Men’s Tennis Championship. Lock will compete in singles while Lock and Nunez will compete in doubles. Good luck!

Now for the good news!

Gators Liang Porter Thornqvist

The University of Florida Gators women’s team played host to Georgia Tech on Saturday, but could learn a thing or two about hospitality, dismissing the Yellow Jackets 4-0 to move into the Sweet 16. For the #5-ranked team in the nation, this match was never in doubt. The Gators won the doubles 2-0 thanks to the gritty play of Josie Kuhlman/Belinda Woolcock and Brooke Austin/Kourtney Keegan. Both matches lasted less than an hour with the final scores of 8-2 and 8-5, respectively. Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter were close to finishing their opponents when the outcome was determined.

In the singles, the Gators took the first set on 5 out of 6 courts. Securing the finish for UF would be Belinda Woolcock, Brianna Morgan, and Josie Kuhlman. Brooke Austin, and Kourtney Keegan were in the lead when the outcome was determined. According to Head Coach Roland Thornqvist: “Our doubles play was just exceptional all weekend. …I was very pleased to see that we were the aggressive team. If we weren’t, things could’ve been a little hairy… because their [Georgia Tech] No. 3 team has been on fire.” In singles, “Belinda [Woolcock] was just outstanding, as she was off the court right away (1:09) that certainly helped our momentum. We are playing, in my mind, the best tennis we have played all year and that’s certainly coming at a great time.”

The Florida Gators now travel to Waco, Tx to face Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. The Cowgirls are 22-5 on the season and 7-2 in the Big 12, a very tough conference. Florida, however, is advancing to the Round of 16 for the 32nd time in team history. They are 28-3 in the Sweet 16, 24-4 in the Elite 8, 13-11 in the Final Four, and 6-7 in the Championship match, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. GO GATORS!

Miami sweet success

The University of Miami Hurricanes had a more difficult time in their Regional match against Ole Miss on Saturday. It started with the Hurricanes dropping the doubles point 2-0. The pairings of Sinead Lohan/Stephanie Wagner and Monique Albuquerque/Silvia Fuentes would both fall 8-4 to Ole Miss before Lina Lileikite/Wendy Zhang could finish their match. Lileikite/Zhang were leading 7-5. Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews “The job at that moment is calm them down, get then focused, get them on target, get them believing in themselves, and put it behind them.” Which is what they did.

In singles, Miami would need ‘all hands on deck’ to pull out the win. Freshman Sinead Lohan would be the first to finish downing her opponent 6-1, 6-3. The score is tied at 1-1. Miami would take a 2-1 lead thanks to a win by Senior Monique Albuquerque, 6-4, 6-1. Ole Miss would get a win over Lina Lileikete evening the score at 2-2. The next match to finish would be a Miami win thanks to Freshman Wendy Zhang, 6-2, 6-3. Miami now leads 3-2. But Ole Miss would tie it up again with a win over freshman Silvia Fuentes. Which means it all comes down to court #1, and the Junior from Amberg, Germany, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner had taken the first set handily, 6-1, but her opponent decided to show up for the second, keeping things close the entire time, holding serve and even taking a 5-3 lead. Stephanie would need a break of her own to keep things from getting out of hand. And she would do just that, winning 4 games in a row, and finishing her opponent 7-5 in the second, giving the Miami Hurricanes the 4-3 victory and a berth in the Sweet 16. The Hurricanes are now 3-1 when dropping the doubles point this season.

Up next for the ‘Canes are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tarheels. This could be a tall order as the ‘Heels are 28-1 this season, 14-0 in the ACC, and beat the Hurricanes 5-2 on April 4. Keep your fingers crossed!

USF bulls team NCAA

Rounding out the Top 3 are the University of South Florida Bulls who would down Virginia Tech, 4-0, to make it to the Sweet 16. As simple as it sounds, the win would not come easy. Roberto Cid and Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz would win their doubles match, 8-3, but the pairing of Sasha Gozun/Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would need a tie break to take the set 8-3. Oliver Pramming and Justin Roberts would not finish, but were behind 6-7 when the doubles point was decided. “Virginia Tech has very good doubles, especially No. 1 and No. 2. I thought our guys did a great job of playing smart and competing really well throughout” Head Coach Matt Hill would say afterwards.

In singles, Justin Roberts would step up to take the first point with a crushing 6-0, 6-2 defeat of his VT opponent. The freshman from the Bahamas has continued to perform following his contribution to the Bulls’ second straight AAC Championship. Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would be the next to finish his opponent with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) tiebreak win. The sophomore from Ukraine had been a major contributor to the Bulls’ success all season long. And rounding out the top 4 for the Bulls is Sasha Gozun, the sophomore from Moldova, who would need three sets to finish his opponent, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The win marks the first time in program history the USF Bulls have made it to the NCAA Round of 16, and are booking their trip to Waco, Tx for the Championships.

Up next for the Bulls are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the Baylor Bears, who will be hosting the NCAA Championship on their home courts. Talk about “home field” advantage. The bears are 23-5 on the season, 4-1 in the Big 12, and would lose to Oklahoma in their Conference Championship. On the other hand, the USF Bulls won their second Conference Championship in dominating fashion, and are now on a 7-game win streak. Can #19 defeat #2, we’ll find out May 14 at 8pm.

For more on your favorite Florida College tennis teams, follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.

Florida Teams Representing in NCAA’s

Friday May 8th marked the kickoff of the 2015 NCAA Tennis Championship. 7 Teams represented the state of Florida. On the Men’s side: University of South Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University. On the Women’s side: University of Florida, Miami University, and University of North Florida.

 

Many of the Florida teams would have a favorable draw coming into the tournament given how they finished the regular season. But there were a few notable exceptions.

 

FGCU men conference champs

Florida Gulf Coast Men – Finishing the season without a ranking, but winning their conference championship, would mean the Eagles would have to face UCLA in the first round. Not good. UCLA is the #15 team in the nation and would go 5-2 in the Pac-12, a very tough conference. Needless to say, FGCU would lose 4-0 to the Bruins to end their season. Better luck next year.

 

UNF women conference champs

North Florida Women – The UNF Ospreys went 17-4 this season, 6-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and would win their Conference championship. And for all of that they would receive #15 Miami Hurricanes in the opening round. The Hurricanes would go 12-2 in the ACC, another very tough conference. The ‘Canes were knocked out of their Conference championship so they were primed for revenge. They took it out on the Ospreys 4-0 in a match that wasn’t very close.

 

Other Florida teams received they draw they wanted, but one team did not get the result they were looking for.

 

UF men doubles blue shirt

University of Florida Men – The #21 Gators had the momentum coming in having won 3 of their last 4 including a win in their Conference championship. But the #42 Pepperdine Waves have had the Gators’ number going 5-3 in previous meetings and 2-0 in the NCAA tournament. Today would be no different as the Waves would drown the Gators 4-3 to move on to Round Two of the tournament.

Coach Paige and Wagner

Now, for the winners. Representing the southern part of Florida and moving on to the second round of the tournament would be the Miami Hurricanes women who soundly defeated the North Florida Ospreys 4-0. The doubles teams of Lohan/Wagner and Albuquerque/Fuentes would secure the doubles point while Lohan, Wagner, and Fuentes would put the finishing touches on the victory. Next up for the ‘Canes are the Runnin’ Rebels of Mississippi.

UF doubles Liang Porter

University of Florida Women – The Gators would receive one of the more favorable draws in the tournament, hosting the first two rounds at home, and facing Bethune-Cookman in the first round. They would make quick work of the Wildcats winning by a score of 4-0 and moving on to face Georgia Tech in Round Two. Georgia Tech would finish the season ranked 27, making it all the way to the finals of the ACC Championship. This could be tough.

USF NCAA first round

Florida State Men – The Seminoles would have to travel to Athens, Ga. to begin the tournament. Finishing the regular season at #33 would mean starting in the middle of the pack, no easy task. Up first would be the Troy Trojans, winners of the Sun Belt Conference Championship. The ‘Noles were up to the task, soundly defeating the Trojans 4-0 and moving on to face the host team, the #7 Georgia Bulldogs. Could this be the end of the line for the Seminoles? We’ll find out May 9 at 3pm.

 

USF men doubles green shorts

Rounding out the top 7 Florida college tennis teams are the Bulls of South Florida men’s team. The Bulls are repeat AAC champions and would travel to Blacksburg, Va. to face the Mountain West champions, the Boise State Broncos. These two teams faced each other in the regular season with The Bulls coming out on top. Today would be no different as they would rattle off a 4-0 win to move into Round Two, and to face host team, Virginia Tech.

 

Day One of the NCAA Championship is in the books and our teams are getting some rest for Round Two. Good Job, Florida!

 

For more on Game Day match results be sure to follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.

 

Seminoles in Georgia for NCAA

Juniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez

The Florida State Seminoles Men’s tennis team enter NCAA Tournament play on Friday, May 8, at 11am against the Troy Trojans at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. The Seminoles received their 13th consecutive bid to the tournament thanks to finishing with a 19-10 record that would put them at #33 in the Nation. The Seminoles are a fairly young team, having only one senior on the roster, but thanks to the steady singles play of juniors Benjamin Lock and Michael Rinaldi, both nationally-ranked players at #44 and #109, respectively, Florida State would navigate the regular season for a shot in the playoffs.

Troy will be a test for Florida State, having finished their season at #53 (25-6) but the Seminoles have seen pretty stiff competition in the ACC this season with wins over Louisville and NC State. The Trojans, however, are in the Championship for only the second time in school history thanks to a 17-win improvement over last season. Troy put 5 players on the All-Sun Belt teams, including a couple of first team selections, Head Coach Scott Kidd would receive Coach of the Year.

FSU Hultquist red pants Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist

These two teams faced each other in January with the ‘Noles coming out on top, 4-0. But the Trojans would finish the season on a 5-game win streak, including becoming Sun Belt Conference Champions. “Troy is a great team and Scott (Kidd) has done a great job there building that program,” said Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist. “They played a bunch of SEC teams tight and we know we’ll have to be ready for them.” Of course, every coach must show some respect to their opponent, but we all know the outcome of this one. Or do we?

FSU Terrell ACC Freshman Terrell Whitehurst

The Seminoles are 3-3 in postseason play in Athens dating back to 1996. They are 13-17 all time in the NCAA Tournament and are looking for their first, first-round win since 2012. Last season, in the opening round, they would fall to South Florida. So a berth in the tournament is no guarantee of a victory… especially when you consider the Seminoles finished the regular season on a 3-game losing streak to enter the conference championship. The Seminoles would fall to #6 Duke, #4 Virginia, and #14 Virginia Tech; most recently losing to Virginia, again, in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship.

 

Do the Seminoles have what it takes to rebound from these recent losses? Will the added time to recover be a boost or a burden to Florida State? Can the Trojans continue their end-of-season momentum into the NCAA Championship? Can the #13-ranked doubles team of Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez earn three points for their team? Will senior Cristian Gonzalez Mendez end his career on a high note? Will freshman Terrell Whitehurst continue to contribute to the team in singles? We’ll find out, Friday morning, 11am, streaming on the Georgia Bulldogs network.

Miami Women Enter NCAA Championship

For the 20th season in a row, the University of Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team enters the NCAA Championship. They will face the University of North Florida Ospreys on Friday, May 8, at 2pm. The Ospreys were unranked in 2015 while the Hurricanes finished the season at #15 in the nation. Coming into the first round of the Championship, the Hurricanes received a very favorable draw and are expected to survive the weekend without a problem.

Miami women Monique Albuquerque

One of the players to watch this weekend is Senior Monique Albuquerque. Monique would lead the Hurricanes in dual match victories with 27; 13 in singles and 14 in doubles when paired with Clementina Riobueno, her partner for the past 3 years. But this would come as a surprise to everyone considering Albuquerque graduated last year with a degree in Economics and a 3.8 GPA. She even went through Senior Day festivities last year.

Lina and Monique Miami Canes

But after some soul-searching, and long discussions with her family in Brazil, Monique would decide to return to the U for her last year of eligibility. “I felt like I had some personal and team goals that I didn’t accomplish… and I really wanted to give it a try again. Also, the opportunity to come and get a master’s is something that you don’t have every day. It was the right choice.”

That would appear to be the case as Albuquerque has led the very young Hurricanes to a 16-6 record, 12-2 in the ACC, and currently sit at #15 in the nation. But she did not do it alone.

Miami Lina Lileikite BH

Also graduating this year, Senior Lina Lileikite would compile a record of 10-4 in singles and 12-4 in doubles when paired with Junior Stephanie Wagner. Lina came to Miami from Latvia and would immediately begin taking on honors. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior she would receive All-ACC Academic Team honors. In her sophomore year she would be named ACC Tournament MVP during the Hurricanes run to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. And in her junior year she would receive Third Team All-ACC honors on their way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Do the Hurricanes have what it takes to make it out of the Sweet 16 this season? Because this is where they could face the #2 team in the nation, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. We’ll find out beginning this Friday, May 8, at 2pm at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Florida.

From College To The Pros

Florida State Assistant Coach, Susie

In Defense of College Coaches

The purpose of college is to train you for future work. Whether it’s as a teacher or an engineer, colleges build upon what you learned in high school to train you for a better future. The same is true for professional athletes, only your instructors are your coaches: offensive coordinator, pitching coach, strength and conditioning coaches, etc. When a high school football player is choosing a college they often consider the things that will help them achieve their goal of playing in the NFL. They consider the location, yes, the history, of course, but let’s not forget the coaches. Is this coach the right coach to get you to the pros? How many other players have they gotten to the pros? This is one of the considerations of college recruiting in sports like football and basketball.

IMAG0516 Florida Atlantic Head Coach – Ricardo

What about college tennis? How many college coaches send their players to the pros? How many college coaches go pro, themselves? Is college even on the path to the pros? Unfortunately, the path to the pros doesn’t go through college. So what about the coaches? If a coach’s value to the university is determined by their team’s accomplishments, and the path to the pros goes around college, how much is a college tennis coach really worth? Coaches are not responsible for a player’s academics, that is in the realm of the professor. They don’t partake of other college extra-curriculars (parties), either. And now we see they can’t get a player to the pros. So what, exactly, do they do? What is their value? What is their worth? Are they nothing more than after school, junior program, tennis instructors, offering a way to pay for college to their small group of players?

Tami Brown Florida State Director of Tennis Operations – Tami

Until professional tennis becomes a team sport, colleges and college coaches will remain in a sort of limbo, between accepting high school players who have given up the dream to play professionally, and a professional sport not interested in college talent. It is a situation that must be remedied for not only the game as a whole, but specifically for college tennis coaches.

IMAG0753 Florida A&M Head Coach – Carl (right)

Consider, for a moment, what a college tennis coach is being asked to do: take a group of players, from different parts of the country, sometimes the world, bring them all together, and get them to play as a team. This is a monumental task considering the tennis environment and players’ attitudes. Tennis players a raised from a very young age to believe they are in it only for themselves, everyone is an opponent, a doubles partner is more of an anchor than a sail, and the best players play singles, while the leftovers play doubles. Now… take those players and make a team out of them, produce a winning record to get into the Conference championships, and eventually the NCAA championships. Good luck. And what do they get in return? A tangible lack of respect from society-at-large because they coach a Team of players rather than an individual. But I would argue that the college tennis coach is an even more accomplished coach because of everything they are asked to do.

IMAG0769 Central Florida Head Coach – Bobby

The only solution to this problem is to abandon the tour and bring tennis back home. Establish professional tennis in America as a team sport and allow college coaches to work with the next generation of professional tennis talent. Recruit from High Schools, get drafted by the Pros, and watch the sport explode in America. And who knows… maybe your favorite college tennis coach will get called up to the Big Leagues, too! GO TEAM!

For more on the world of Team Tennis follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis and Like our Facebook page – All American Team Tennis.

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