|Home crowd at Kennesaw State match|
It hardly seems possible, but the tennis season for Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) women’s and men’s tennis teams has reached the home stretch! In fact, the women played their final home match on March 29, sweeping all seven points from Mercer, and the men have their final match this coming weekend (Sat. April 12th, at 1pm) against Stetson University, in a match that has major A-Sun Conference Championship implications.
|Coach Vernon doing her thing|
But before we get to the men's big match-up this coming weekend, the Lady Eagles' performances this season have earned them top billing. They went 13-7 overall and posted a 6-2 Conference record under first-year coach Courtney Vernon. Their Conference record gained them the third seed in the Conference Championship to be held in Jacksonville the 17th – 19th of April.
Overall, all but one of the Lady Eagles finished with a winning dual-match record. Perhaps the most impressive of those records, as far as numbers go anyway, was posted by freshman Candela Munoz-Giron, who finished 14-2, primarily at the fifth and fourth positions. Munoz posted the Conference’s highest dual-match singles winning percentage (.875, tied with Eveline Lepinay of Stetson), quite a feat for an incoming freshman.
Photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson
Sophomores Johanna Sterkel (11-7) and Elizabeth Means (11-7), and freshman Breana Stampfli (10-7) also posted strong records to help propel the Lady Eagles to their third-place, regular-season Conference finish, behind only the 2013 Conference Champion (University of North Florida) and Finalist (East Tennessee State University).
|Johanna Sterkel- Photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson|
Sterkel’s 11-6 (.647) record at No.3 Singles was the third highest winning percentage on Court 3 in the Conference, while’s Stampli’s 10-7 (.588) record landed her in fourth on the winning percentage list at No.2 Singles. Means’ .667 percentage (4-2) on Court No.4 was good enough to tie for fourth at that position.
Junior Sarah Means, who held down the heavy-lifting spot all season at No.1 Singles and Doubles, finished with a winning record (9-8) at the top position in singles. A late-season slump may have hurt her stats, but her fighting spirit, and classy on-court carriage reflected well upon the program. Sarah did manage to post a 12-5 tournament record this season, including a tourney win, and is likely to be a mainstay atop the lineup again next season.
Senior Bettina Botha Struggled early in the season at No.4 & 5 Singles, but hit her stride coming down the stretch on Court 6, winning five of her last eight matches. Teaming with Sterkel at No.2 Doubles, Botha also notched the third-highest winning percentage (.688) at that position in the Conference, going 11-5 for the season. She will be missed!
|Christyn Conniger, Breanna Stampfli |
& Gyanna Mandic
Senior Gyanna Mandic didn’t see much playing time in singles during her final season, but did post a 2-1 singles record, and notched five wins on the No.3 doubles court with Stampli. Mandic has been a valuable member of the team during her four years, and has been one of the team's better doubles players over the years. The Lady Eagles take a five-match win streak into the A-Sun Championship, and will be looking to pull off the upset in Jacksonville.
|Coach weber & lineswoman|
Coach C J Weber couldn’t have asked for a better match-up for his final home match of the season…from a fan perspective that is. From a team standpoint he may have preferred an easier match-up, but the Stetson University Hatters will provide a telling barometer reading of where the Eagles are going into the Conference Championship in Jacksonville, April 17 - 19.
Photocourtesy of Linwood Ferguson
How even is this match-up? Both teams come into the match (this coming Saturday the 12th at 1pm) with four-match win streaks, and both teams are one win above .500. According to Coach Weber, his team and Stetson's team have fared almost the exact same against common opponents.
Perusing individual stats, the Eagles’ No.1 player junior Jordi Vives leads the Conference in singles winning percentage (.882, at 15-2) overall and at the No.1 singles position. Guess who is No.2 on the overall list? Stetson’s Graham Ball, although he plays No.4 Singles primarily.
|Jordi & Dean Tsamas|
In overall doubles, FGCU’s Vives and senior Dean Tsamas sit fourth on the list, while the fifth-place duo is from Stetson. Vives and Tsamas have the second highest winning percentage on the top doubles court, and Stetson has the fourth-place team on the list.
Not convinced of the parity of this contest? Well, last season the Hatters upended the Eagles 4-3 in the final regular season match to claim the third seed for the Championship. Last year’s season finale was at Stetson, however, and the Hatters come to the Eagles’ nest this time around. It should be a doozy!
Although only one Eagle (ITA No.62 Vives) has posted a winning dual-match record on the season, the team has done enough collectively to position themselves for a good tournament run. Four of the Eagles’ six regular singles players are on multiple-match win streaks, and despite the slow start to the season for most, five of the six have at least a .500 record over their last 10 matches.
The Eagles will need to pick up their doubles performance against Stetson and in the Conference Championship if they are to close out the season in fine style, as only the team of Vives and Tsamas has posted a winning record this season. However, with three seniors playing their final home match at FGCU (Tsamas, Gabe Echeverry, and Lance Lvovsky) on Senior Day, I’m looking forward to a strong outing from the Eagles on Saturday. See you out there! Game, set, match...T. A.