FGCU’s men and women prepare to head to the A-Sun tournament
Ending the regular season with a win over Stetson University, the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s tennis team (15-5, 6-0 Atlantic Sun) will head into the A-Sun Conference Championship as the No. 1 seed.
“Ever since our first day of practice in September we have been working for this,” FGCU coach CJ Weber said. “We earned it but we certainly can’t allow ourselves to get distracted or we could get tripped up. Everyone is gunning for us now, and we want to get it to where we are gunning for them as well.”
The University of North Florida (16-6, 5-1 Atlantic Sun) heads into the tournament as the host and No. 2 seed with the Eagles being its only loss in A-Sun competition this season. USC Upstate (6-15, 4-2 Atlantic Sun), Stetson (11-9, 3-3 Atlantic Sun) and Kennesaw State University (7-11, 2-4 Atlantic Sun) round out the top five, respectively.
The Eagles will kick off the tournament on Saturday playing the winner of the Kennesaw and Stetson match on Friday. Stetson is led by Loic Blanco (14-4) and Kennesaw is led by Simon Pritchard who is 11-6 in singles play.
The Eagles ended the regular season with a 5-2 win over Stetson on Thursday. They started out the match securing the doubles point. Senior Jordi Vives defeated his competitor 6-3, 6-4 to go undefeated in A-Sun action for the second year in a row. He also sits atop the singles rankings in the A-Sun with a 17-2 record for the season.
“Words can’t describe what Jordi has done for this program,” Weber said. “He has won so often you go into a match assuming he is going to win. That is not what you want to do as a player or as a team or a coach but that is more of a testament to his consistency and dedication to winning every single match than anyone taking that for granted.”
Senior Tianyu Bao won his match 6-2, 7-5 and sits in second as the player with the most wins in singles competition at FGCU. Michael Beiler closed the match with a 6-3, 6-1 win over his competitor to remain 6-0 in conference play.
“Michael Beiler has become our rock and is a very steady point for us this year,” Weber said. “He, Bao and Jordi are all motivated to go out with a bang this year. It is because of their leadership that the team is doing so well.”
Andres Alfonzo lost in a tough match to his Stetson competitor in the No.2 spot. He won the first set 6-1, but lost the next two sets 1-6, 2-6. Ricky Ventura also came close in his match but lost 5-7, 3-6.
Although a lot of pressure comes with being the No. 1 seed, the team draws on its experience from last week to try to come out with a win on Saturday.
“We aren’t changing anything,” Weber said. “This week is the same as every other week. Our preparation is going to be the same, our mental mindset will stay the same and the bottom line is to just view this tennis match as any other match. It does not change just because it is conference.”
The FGCU women’s tennis team (8-11, 4-2 Atlantic Sun) heads into the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship as the No. 3 seed after losing to Stetson on Saturday. If the team wins its first match, it will have a chance to play the Hatters again in the championship.
“We are excited to have another opportunity to play them,” junior Johanna Sterkel said. “I’m positive we can beat them. Everyone knows how to play against their opponent now and that could really benefit us.”
The hosting University of North Florida (15-3, 6-0 Atlantic Sun) heads into the championship as the No. 1 seed and Stetson (15-4, 5-1 Atlantic Sun) as the No. 2 seed.
The Eagles will play No. 6 seed Kennesaw State University (3-13, 1-5 Atlantic Sun) on Friday morning. Virginie Stein leads the Owls with an 8-7 record in singles for the season.
Sterkel and senior Candela Munoz Giron are both undefeated in conference play. Sterkel leads the team with a 15-3 record in singles. Junior Elizabeth Means and senior Sarah Means are ranked third in the No.1 doubles slot for the conference with an 8-4 record for the season.
“We are all sticking together,” Sterkel said. “We know we can all do well. The only way to win is to do it together so we are keeping a positive team spirit.”
The Eagles lost 4-2 to Stetson on Saturday. They started off winning the doubles point but weren’t able to carry the momentum into singles play.
“Stetson was very challenging,” FGCU coach Courtney Veron said. “It was even going into singles in terms of ability and I think it came down to a few points and they handled the pressure better that day. The good thing is that the girls are hungry to have revenge on them.”
Sterkel was the only player to come out with a victory in singles. She defeated her competitor 6-0, 6-0. Sophomore Breana Stampfli came close in her match but lost 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.
“The biggest thing is that it is just another week,” Vernon said. “We just need to approach it the same and I think the girls are looking forward for another opportunity to compete. With it being the conference tournament, there is more pressure. But, with that comes the opportunity to rise to the occasion.”