Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FGCU Men's Tennis Wrap-Up Busy Week Atop ASC

Spectators root on Eagles

Last week was a very busy and productive week for Coach C J Weber and the FGCU Men’s Tennis Eagles. Two home matches against non-conference foes and the Inaugural “FGCU-nion” were on the menu last week, and the boys in blue and green handled it as well as, or better than could be expected.

Coach Weber delivers pep talk to troops
When Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) came to town last Wednesday, Eagles fans in the know expected a win, as the SIUE Cougars were 2-5 coming in and the Eagles had posted three consecutive home victories. The boys in blue and green did not disappoint, dropping an inhospitable 7-0 defeat on the Cougars. Although it was great to sweep all seven points, the team knew a true test would be upon them shortly, as they would play University of Pennsylvania (U-Penn) two days later.

Gabe Echeverry assists Coach Weber
Against University of Pennsylvania (U-Penn), the Eagles were facing an Ivy League program that has been in existence since 1900…uh, that’s 111 years! In comparison, Florida Gulf Coast University, as a whole, will celebrate its 15th birthday this August. The FGCU tennis facility was born 100 years after U-Penn’s tennis program began. Oh, and U-Penn was the No.75-ranked Division I team in the country when they came to town. To say this was a big match for the Eagles is like saying it gets a bit balmy in Southwest Florida in the summer.

Jackson & Bao take tough loss on Court 1
Coach Weber imparts
wisdom to Bao in upset win
The Eagles fought gamely as one would expect under first-year coach, 

C. J. Weber, but they were not quite able to get over the hump in some tough matches. FGCU lost the doubles point despite being ahead in two of the three doubles matches. At No.1 Doubles, FGCU’s Tianyu Bao and Jackson Moore had no answer for Ivan Turudic and Nikola Kocovic, losing 8-2.

Collin & Dean in action
But things looked good on Court’s 2 and 3 as Collin Brown and Dean Tsamas couldn’t hold the 6-3-lead they had earned against Jeremy Court and Zach Katz. The appropriately-named Court and partner Katz reeled off five straight games to claim the comeback victory, securing the doubles point for the “No-quit” Quakers. 

Matt & Lance pull-off doubles win
At Second Doubles, Lance Lvovsky and Matt Rock served for the match at 7-5, but had to gut out a tiebreak to get the win. Lvovsky served for about 15 minutes (a normal game goes about four minutes) against Rob Wong and Jason Lin trying to close out the match. Both teams had game/break points, but couldn’t convert. Eventually the Quakers got the break, and held to reach 7-7.

Dean & Jackson root for Matt & Lance
With the doubles point already decided, you would think that one of the two teams might have shown less desire to win. NOT! Both teams battled as though it was the final and deciding point of the dual meet, and the Eagles emerged with the 7-4 tiebreak win. It was a moral victory that may have lifted some sagging spirits.

Dean Tsamas
Mike Beiler 
Things looked grim after the first two completed singles matches were straight-set Quaker wins, especially when one of those losses was a Dean Tsamas loss at No.3. Tsamas had been riding a five-match win streak, but fell to Jeremy Court, 6-7, 4-6. Freshman Mike Beiler lost 4-6, 4-6 to Jason Magnes at No.6. 

But the Eagles have no quit in them either, and Jackson Moore dug deep at No. 2, coming back after dropping the first set 3-6 to take the next two 6-3, 7-5 to edge Nikola Kocovic. Bao elevated the hopes of Coach Weber and the Eagles fans in attendance.

Bao, a freshman, was facing Ivan Turudic, a Croatian sophomore, ranked No.83 in the country.  At 6’ 5”, Bao’s thunderous first serve and nasty second-serve kicker gave Turudic trouble, and Bao claimed the first set 6-3. Characteristic of the Quakers, and a top-100-ranked player, Turudic fought back to take the second set 6-2. Bao brought all of his weapons to bear in the third, including his world-class forehand, and claimed the third 6-2.

The dual match was now 3-2 in favor of the Quakers, with both Matt and Lance holding the advantage in the remaining two matches after claiming the first set on Courts 4 and 5 respectively. It seemed as though Matt would post two wins over Jason Lin that day, as he took the first set 6-1. But as in their doubles match, it was tough closing out Lin, and the Quaker took the final two sets 6-3, 6-4, clinching the dual match victory for U-Penn.

On Court 5, Lance also started strong, taking the first set over Zack Katz, 6-3, but again, the Quakers showed why they have climbed to No.75 in the country. Katz took the second and third sets at 6-4. One can only wonder if the emotional and extended victory Matt and Lance gained in doubles played a role in those tough three-set losses.

FGCU 1st Lady Jo Anna Bradshaw & former
men's coach J. Webb Horton 
In any event, the final dual match score was 5-2 in favor of the Quakers, but with a break here and a break there, the Eagles could have staked a claim to a plot on the national intercollegiate tennis landscape. With four underclassmen and just one senior in the starting line-up, and coaches C.J. Weber and Mike Napoli leading the way, I’m betting it won’t be too long before that claim has been staked.

Matt rocks a serve 
The Eagles next match at the FGCU Tennis Complex is against Atlantic Sun Conference (ASC) opponent Mercer on Thursday, March 15 at 1pm. The Mercer Bears are 3-4 and the match at FGCU is their conference opener. The Eagles will be attempting to remain atop the ASC by going 2-0 in conference play.
Dean & Lance in chair  
Okay, so you might think that the boys would be tired and down after the five-hour, losing ordeal from the day before, right? Well, they didn’t look it this morning (Saturday) as they entertained the few participants to get on board their Inaugural “FGCU-nion,” my term for Coach Weber’s attempt to bring the local tennis community and the FGCU Men’s Tennis program together.

Matt Rock & Curtis Catlin
The number that was important at the FGCU-nion was not the number of participants, but the 100% that the team gave even in the face of the disappointing turnout. The players that turned out to take part in the clinic provided by team members, the player-am (team member and participant), and the exhibition certainly weren’t disappointed.

Collin Brown & No.1 Fan Jerry "Duke" Babson
In describing his experience, Jerry "Duke" Babson, described by Coach Weber as the Eagles' No. 1 Fan, wrote, "The experience was great! What I learned is there are still some great young people coming along and this team proves it, they are all gentlemen and nice guys.C.J. Weber can be proud. I know I am. Do this again and the people will  come."

Scott McQuillin & Tianyu Bao
Having watched the other participants on court, I can't help but think they would echo Duke's sentiments. Duke went on to say, "I've been hanging around for 10 years and this is the best  gang of young men yet. I can't wait for the next few years (I see Championships coming). Also thanks to J.Webb Horton for letting me hang around all those years. Wilson Bradshaw should be proud...Thanks Lance, Matt, Colin, Dean, Steve, Jackson, Mike, Bao, and Gabe. You too C.J..." 
Eldon Gohn & Steve Binninger
Of course Coaches Weber and Napoli and the team would have liked a huge crowd at the event today, but one has to start somewhere, and this Inaugural event was just that: a start. Finishing the season strong, taking part in some of the tennis activities in the community, and continued outreach will go a long way toward developing the kind of relationship Coach Weber would like to see emerge between his Eagles and the local tennis community. I’m on board and hope to see you on the Eagles’ train soon! Game, set, match…T A

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