Feb. 4, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Florida State men’s tennis returns to the Scott Speicher Tennis Center this Sunday to play host to the No. 3 ranked University of Florida. The Seminoles enter the match with a 3-2 record, after dropping close matches consecutively to No. 5 Illinois and No. 31 Notre Dame this past weekend. Florida has yet to lose a dual match thus far as they enter the week at 2-0. The Gators were scheduled to square off with No. 9 Duke on Jan. 29, but the match was cancelled due to inclement weather.
The Seminoles came just short of pulling off the upset last year against the Gators in Gainesville, FL, as they fell 4-3, winning the doubles point and 2 singles matches — Jeff Groslimond (Atlanta, Ga.) and Jonathas Sucupira (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Florida State came within a third set tiebreaker of beating the Gators for the first time since 1997.
“Last year it could have gone either way,” said head coach Dwayne Hultquist. “We certainly had some opportunities to win it, so it was a really hard fought match. They know that they are going to have a battle. We played them 4-3 down there (last year), so hopefully we can come out and have a big victory here.”
If this year’s match proves to be anything like last year’s, every point will count, which means doubles play is of the utmost importance. Last week against heavily favored Illinois, the Seminoles took the doubles matches 2-1. Highlighting were Matt Cloer (Brevard, N.C.) and Ytai Abougzir (Boca Raton, Fla.) as they took down the No.4 ranked team of Ryler DeHeart and GD Jones 9-8.
“We came out extremely confident for the doubles against Illinois, at No. 1 and 2 especially,” said assistant coach Nick Crowell. “I thought those guys played some of their best tennis.”
There are some new faces to the rivalry match with the Gators this year. Sam Chang (Young-Ming, Taiwan) is in his first year with Florida State and Abougzir begins his run with the Seminoles after sitting out the 2003-04 season in compliance with NCAA eligibility requirements. Crowell also looks forward to his first match against the Gators. Although he has little experience with the Florida-Florida State rivalry, Crowell will be as fired up on Sunday as anyone.
“Just being around Dwayne and the guys, I know this is a big match and a school rivalry so we have been looking for this one for a long time.”
Clashing with the Gators on the court is just one of the factors associated with this rivalry. Both schools often recruit the same players year in and year out. Many of the players for the Gators could be wearing garnet and gold this year, and the same goes for the Seminoles who were just as close to wearing orange and blue.
“We recruit a lot of the same players,” Hultquist said. “I think that there are three or four guys on their team that we recruited and there are three guys off of our team that they recruited.”
When it comes down to the basics of this rivalry and what it means to both schools, nobody could have a better understanding than someone who has had the experience as a player and coach. Very few people have played as large of a role for Florida State men’s tennis as former player and assistant coach Ty Braswell. Braswell played from 1996-1999 and served as assistant coach from 2000-2004.
As a freshman, Braswell lost a devastating three set match at the No. 4 spot against the Gators, as Seminoles fell 4-3. The freshman just hoped that he’d have a chance for redemption. That opportunity came knocking on the door just a year later as Braswell, under the same circumstances, overcame a deficit in the third set to earn the victory for himself and the Seminoles 4-3.
“That’s my best more in college tennis,” Braswell said. “It’s totally different. There is just something about playing UF. There’s an energy in the air that you can’t describe.”
The tennis programs at both schools are steadily on the rise, and the Seminoles hold a certain amount of respect for Florida and what they have been able to do in recent years.
“They have more tradition than we have, but I feel that our program is up and coming,” Hultquist added. “We’re going to be one of the better teams in the country, like they are.”
The match begins at 1:00 P.M. at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center and is the first of four consecutive home matches for the Seminoles.