University of Florida
On Saturday November 7, our Youth Tennis League traveled to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World to witness the Collegiate Clay Court Invitational hosted by the Florida State University. It was a loooooong day for everyone which included watching matches in the morning at ESPN and playing matches in the evening at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Melbourne with a visit to Disney Springs in between. But even with the amount of time spent sharing a vehicle, our players will always remember the time we spent watching and playing tennis.
While attending the event at ESPN Coach Ken led the players from court to court gathering autographs from as many players as he could find, which wasn’t very hard because they were EVERYWHERE! You can see some of the autographs on the back of the shirts in the pictures.
Josie Kuhlman and Brianna Morgan of Florida, Yukako Noi of Florida State, Florida Gulf Coast, Clemson, Georgia, and others gave each of our players a little bit of their time and a signature to go home with. It was a truly memorable experience for us and, I’m sure, for the players, too. You’re not going to get this kind of attention at a professional tennis tournament!
But before we were ready to move onto our next destination, FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist graciously accepted our invitation to speak to the group. So we all gathered around him while he spoke to the kids about being a part of the Team, doing your part to help the Team, and traveling with the Team to far away destinations like Hawaii. I just hope our players appreciated what it meant to have Coach Hultquist speak to the group. Because while he was speaking to us, the FSU Men’s team of Jose Garcia and Marco Nunez were embroiled in the heat of battle against the team from Louisville. Garcia and Nunez would go on to capture the title in the Gold division, taking out Pepperdine in the Final.
On the Women’s side, Josie Kuhlman and Brianna Morgan of the University of Florida would face Gators teammates Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter in the Final to also win the Gold division. They would destroy the Clemson team 8-4 in the semifinal.
Seeing a tennis match in person makes the game feel much more real. And watching college tennis players play their hearts out for the benefit of their team makes it all the more special. It is why All American Team Tennis places kids on teams, and why I believe tennis would be more popular if it were a Team sport at the professional level. Who knows… maybe one day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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