May 22, 2005
COLLEGE STATION, Texas –
For the second time in three years, the University of Florida ended the season for the Florida State University men’s tennis team in the NCAA Tournament. The difference this time was that it was in the Elite Eight as the No. 3 Gators ended the No. 18 Seminoles Cinderella run in the tournament with the 4-0 victory on Sunday (May 22).
Florida State ended its magical season – which saw it reach the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in school history – with a 21-8 record. It was the Seminoles’ first 20-win season in two decades. Florida won its ninth match in a row over FSU as it improved to 24-5. The Gators advances to the semifinals where they will face defending national champion Baylor, who has won 56-straight matches.
“I think this is the best team in the history of Florida State,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “We’re the first team to ever make it to the final site and we had our best finish in the ACC. The SEC had a lot of teams here and so did the Big 12, but the ACC from top to bottom had seven or eight really good teams and established itself as one of the top conferences in the country.”
For just the third time all season, the Seminoles found themselves down after the doubles point. After taking a 6-4 lead in their number three match, Jonathas Sucupira (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Sam Chang (Young-Ming, Taiwan) lost four-straight games to drop an 8-6 decision to Nester Briceno and Stef Tell.
Evening the doubles point was the tandem of Mat Cloer (Brevard, N.C.) and Ytai Abougzir (Boca Raton, Fla.) as they won their third-straight match in the tournament 8-5 over Chris Brandi and Jordan Dolberg. All the attention focused on court one where Chris Westerhof (Durban, South Africa) and Jeff Groslimond (Atlanta, Ga.) went into a tiebreaker for the third match in a row. Unfortunately, the magic wasn’t there this time as they lost 8-6 in the tiebreaker and 9-8 in the match to No. 8 Hamid Mirzadeh and Greg Ouellette.
“The difference in the match today was that Florida won all the important points,” Hultquist noted. “The doubles point was very important. I didn’t think that we had the energy that we normally do in doubles and we came out flat. We had Florida down 6-4 at number three and they came back and then the tiebreaker at number one and there were points throughout singles where they won the big points and that made the difference.”
Florida used the momentum from the doubles point to take four of the first six sets. Within about ten minutes, the Gators claimed the three victories it need to secure the team point.
Giving Florida the 2-0 advantage was Briceno as he used a break in the middle of the second set at number four to beat Westerhof 6-3, 6-4. Tied at 4-4 in the second stanza, No. 95 Vlad Obradovic got a break on Groslimond then went on for the 6-3, 6-4 win at number three. Finishing the match was No. 24 Mirzadeh as he won the second set tiebreaker 7-6 over #26 Cloer for the 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory at number one.
“The last two years we’ve beaten them 4-3 early in the year and they’ve kept knocking on the door to get into the top ten and I think they’re there now,” UF head coach Andy Jackson said. “The state of Florida is going to be a real battle. Hats off to them for what they’ve achieved.”
When the match was finished, Sucupira was tied at 3-3 in the second frame after winning the opener 7-5 over #103 Brandi. Senior Chip Webb (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had split the first two sets 6-4 and 1-6 with Ryan Sherry at number six. Abougzir was even at two in the second stanza after falling 6-7 (5) to #49 Ouellette at number two.
“We’ve worked awful hard this year and we have five starters coming back next year,” Hultquist noted. “We have the make up of a team that can be at the final site year in and year out. Our guys need to not be complacent and work hard over the summer ready to come back next year and make the Sweet 16 again.”
The Seminoles do have one player with at least one more match left to play. Cloer will begin his quest to become the school’s first NCAA singles All-American when he takes part in the singles draw, which starts on Wednesday. The three-time All-ACC selection will find out his opponent on Tuesday when the draw is announced.
Florida State brings back five players next year that have played in at least 20 matches each this season, including Groslimond and Westerhof who each won 20 bouts and reset their own single-season doubles record with 27 triumphs.
No. 18 Florida State 0, No. 3 Florida 4
No. 1: #24 Hamid Mirzadeh (UF) def. #26 Mat Cloer (FSU) 6-2, 7-6 (3)
No. 2: Ytai Abougzir (FSU) vs. #49 Greg Ouellette (UF) DNF 6-7 (5), 2-2
No. 3: #95 Vlad Obradovic (UF) def. Jeff Groslimond (FSU) 6-3, 6-4
No. 4: Nestor Briceno (UF) def. Chris Westerhof (FSU) 6-3, 6-2
No. 5: Jonathas Sucupira (FSU) vs. #103 Chris Brandi (UF) DNF 7-5, 3-3
No. 6: Chip Webb (FSU) vs. Ryan Sherry (UF) DNF 6-4, 1-6,
Order of Finish: 4, 3, 1
No. 1: #8 Mirzadeh/Ouellette (UF) def. Groslimond/Westerhof (FSU) 9-8 (6)
No. 2: #40 Cloer/Abougzir (FSU) def. Brandi/Jordan Dolberg (UF) 8-5
No. 3: Briceno/Stef Tell (UF) def. Sucupira/ Sam Chang (FSU) 8-6
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1