The weather might be cooling down, but FGCU’s Men’s Tennis is just heating up. If you didn’t make it down to the courts last weekend, you missed some tremendous tennis.
|Coach C.J. Weber|
Second-year Men’s Coach, C. J. Weber and FGCU’s “Men in Green & Blue” hosted the Fall Invitational on September 28 – 30, and University of Miami (UM), Barry University, University of Central Florida (UCF), and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) accepted invites…They all left the party a little less than satisfied.
The event featured a 32-draw singles event and a 16-team doubles event, with back draws (consolation) for both. After the flying fuzz had settled on the asphalt Sunday afternoon, FGCU had claimed both the singles and doubles main-draw titles. Jordi Vives of Barcelona, Spain, a 6’ 4”, 20-year-old sophomore-transfer from National Champion USC, took home the honors in singles without dropping a set. In fact, Vives dropped just 18 games in his five wins on the weekend, according to the Eagles’ website.
Tianyu Bao, the 6’ 5” sophmore sensation from Bradenton, Florida, who occupied the top spot for the Eagles last season and garnered Freshman of the Year honors, teamed with junior Lance “LL Cool Play” Lvovsky, a 6’ 0” doubles demon from Dania, Florida, to take the doubles competition. After a come-from-behind, tiebreak win in their first match, one in which they were down two match points, Bao and Lvovsky took out Taylor Albrecht and Will Neuner, the top-seeded team from FAU.
|Tianyu Bao & Michael Beiler|
As impressive as Bao and Lvovsky’s first-round comeback was, taking out Albrecht and Neuner was every bit as impressive, given that Albrecht and Neuner are ranked No.10 in the ITA Southeast Region rankings. In addition, Albrecht and Neuner rank among the top four in the history of FAU Men’s Tennis for single-season wins in doubles. Looks like the Eagles may have found something in doubles this past weekend!
Also representing the Eagles well was Dean Tsamas, a 5’ 8” junior from Lexington, Kentucky. On Friday, in what my dawg Mike Curran would call “ridonkulous” heat, Dean fought off cramps and his opponent from UCF to win a grinding three-setter. On Saturday, he dropped a close two-setter to eventual finalist, Victor Mauz of Miami (4, 4), in a match I thought he would come back to win despite being down 1-4 in the first. I think I jinxed him.
At 5’ 8” Tsamas is the shortest on the team, but what he may lack in height, he makes up for in heart and smarts. I love watching Dean orchestrate a match! I’m betting you would too. Reflecting on the weekend, Tsamas said, “I fully expect FGCU to be a contender in the A-Sun [Atlantic Sun Conference]. FGCU’s Men’s Tennis is only going up, and I’m just excited to be along for the ride.”
Coach Weber has been high on his team since his arrival a year ago, and last season the team performed as well as an FGCU team ever has, making it to the Conference Championship. But after the Men in Green & Blue’s performance this past weekend, you would think Coach Weber’s wife (if he had one) had given birth to twins. The event sweep suggests that his pride and enthusiasm about the team was certainly warranted.
|Gabe Echeverry & C.J.|
In addition to the stellar results noted above, Gabe Echeverry, a 5’ 9” junior out of Popayan, Columbia, who is coming back from injury, and 5’ 11” freshman, Dylan Gunning of Boca Raton, Florida, one of the Eagles’ top recruits, picked up singles wins. Echeverry wore down his opponent from UM, making him upchuck his breakfast and the match, 6-4 in the third.
Showing that they are also a potent combination, Michael Beiler of Palm Harbor, Florida, a 6’ 3” sophomore on the rise, and 5’ 11” senior, Collin Brown of Victoria, Texas, teamed to notch a doubles win as well. Beiler and Brown, henceforth to be known as “Da Killer B’s,” put another feather in Coach Weber’s and FGCU’s caps by bumping off a team from Miami, going 2-0 against ACC teams so far this season.
|Collin Brown & Dean Tsamas|
The bottom line is that every Eagle who laced up his sneaks and swung a racquet this past weekend went scoreboard, uh that means put one in the win column. The Eagles’ talented, 6’ 2” senior, Jackson Moore of Bradenton, Florida was on the sidelines nursing an injury, and 5’ 11” freshman, Chris Perrigan of Tallahassee, Florida cheered on his teammates, but is still awaiting his first official action as an Eagle.
|Jackson Moore & Tianyu Bao|
Hey, just thought of something: I’m betting the Athletic Director in Miami is wondering how he let an assistant coach, who helped his Miami team reach a top-25 ranking, go up the road a piece to a little known program, which made the Hurricanes look more like a gentle breeze. It’s not as if the AD didn’t know what he had, given that Coach Weber had picked up Southeast Region Coach of the Year honors the season before coming to FGCU. Go figure...
Yep, C.J. came to coach and his men came to play! Sharing his thoughts about the event, Coach Weber said, “For me, it was incredibly satisfying to do well against Miami, since I worked there for 5 years prior to FGCU. We won the final against them 1 & 1, and we beat them 4 of 6 times throughout the weekend! This was a strong draw…and it was very impressive that we won both draws in such convincing fashion.”
I don’t know if you remember that commercial about Smith-Barney where the spokesman, John Houseman says, “They make money the old-fashioned way: they earn it!” Well, I can tell you from observation that FGCU Men’s Tennis will climb the tennis ladder the very same way. Turning to Coach Weber again, “This tournament is confirmation of what we already believed about ourselves as a team. I believe that wins do not breed confidence; but hard work breeds confidence - at least the type of confidence that I want our team to have.”
C.J.’s work ethic and enthusiasm are contagious. Asked for their thoughts on the weekend, a number of players didn’t hesitate to express their exuberance. Second-year man Beiler: “It’s awesome to be a part of what’s going on here!”
Third-year man and Invitational doubles champ Lvovsky: “I have high hopes for this season. I believe we have bigger and better things ahead of us…there is great camaraderie among all the guys on the team.”
Invitational singles champ and first year player at FGCU, Jordi Vives: “This weekend was really good for us: getting both titles. We showed that we are doing the right things. Sincerely, I believe in my teammates, my coach, in this project, and we are going to have a great year!”
For all the parents out there, the following is something you want to hear from your child in his first semester of college, whether he plays tennis or not. It comes from freshman Dylan Gunning: “I really, really, really like this program here at FGCU…CJ is determined, and our guys are even more determined to not only achieve a better record this year, but to win conference! ”
A heavy dose of belief, added to a large dollop of hard work, mixed with a pinch of talent can produce blue ribbon results. Don’t you think it’s time to get this bandwagon rolling?
|Coach Weber & Fan|
Coach Weber knows that a supportive environment would be a boon to FGCU’s program. Regarding community participation, he says, “Community involvement is absolutely VITAL to the success of the program. In fact, I don't think you can have a successful program without it! Having the support of the community makes a big difference in the college tennis experience that each of the players receives. I hope to always do our part in reaching out to the community to make sure we are a significant part of the tennis community in Lee and Collier counties; and in return, I hope to build the greatest fan base of any school in Florida...and that includes FSU and UF; and I KNOW it can be done, because the vibrancy of this tennis community is unrivaled anywhere in the country!”
Hmmm, did I tell you he was enthusiastic? You can forgive him, coming off a double win at the Invitational, right? But ya know what? I think he actually believes…and more importantly, so do his guys.
Putting their money where their mouths are, the Men in Green and Blue are running a clinic at FGCU this Friday, October 5th, for members of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at St Matthew’s House. Referring to the potential participants, Coach Weber said, “Many of them have aspirations of attending college after leaving the program, so we are going to bring them to FGCU, show them a good time on the courts, and expose them to the university setting.”
Even a cynic like me is starting to believe and I'm beginning to look for that pot of tennis gold right around the corner. Care to join me in the search? If you are, you are welcome to join a group that is being formed to support the growth and development of FGCU’s Men’s Tennis Team. The first gathering has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 14 at 5pm at Alico Arena.
Drop me an email if you are interested in being a part of something special in our own backyard.
The Eagles will see action next in Tallahassee at the ITA Southeast Regional tournament October 18 – 22. Game, set, match...T. A.