May 5, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Prior to last season, it had been four years since the Florida State University men’s tennis team had appeared in the NCAA Tournament. Now the Seminoles are making their second trip in a row to the Big Dance as they face No. 20 Arizona in Gainesville, Fla., on May 15.
“We’re excited to be in the tournament and hopefully if we are healthy we can make a run,” FSU net boss Dwayne Hultquist said. “Arizona is a really good team. I know their coach really well. He’s done a good job there for a long time and is a very classy individual.”
Hosted by the seventh-seeded Florida, the regional also features Central Florida. The eighth-ranked Gators will take on the No. 71Golden Knights at 9 a.m. on May 15 with the No. 47 Florida State and Arizona match to follow at 1 p.m. The winner of the two matches will meet at noon on Sunday.
This will be the first time that the Seminoles and Wildcats have met. FSU’s only encounter with a PAC-10 team has come in two losses to Arizona State. Fifth in the conference, Arizona comes into the tournament with a 14-8 record. The Wildcats are led by the No. 24 doubles team of Colin O’Grady and Roger Matalonga.
“I think we have one of the toughest regions,” Hultquist commented. “Central Florida should be ranked in the 40’s if it wasn’t for injuries and Florida is one of the best teams in the country. We had a good match with Florida earlier in the year so we have a good feel for them, but all of our focus is on Arizona.”
Despite having an overall record of 10-12, Florida State advanced to the NCAA Tournament based on the strength of its schedule. Sixteen of the Seminoles’ 22 matches came against ranked teams with seven opponents currently ranked in top 25 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Of Florida State’s 12 losses, only one came to a team outside the top 40.
“Like us there were a lot of teams that didn’t have a winning record, but had a strong strength of schedule and that may be why teams like us, Oregon and Cal got in and other didn’t,” Hultquist noted. “It’s only going to make you better when you compete against the best teams in the country. You learn that you have to put it all on the line every time out”
Two months ago FSU appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament after a 4-3 victory over sixth-ranked Duke on March 21. One of the best victories in school history came on the heels of a 5-2 loss to defending NCAA Champion Illinois. The impressive outings moved Florida State up to No. 25 in the national rankings.
However, during the next match at Wake Forest, the Seminoles’ number two singles player Jonathas Sucupira (Sao Paulo, Brazil)-who had ascended to the No. 51 spot in the national rankings-suffered an injury and was out of the line-up the remainder of the season. The result was a six-match losing streak, including a 4-1 loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament.
“Jonathas really makes us a lot better,” Hultquist noted. “He’s a guy that plays with a lot of energy and that’s something we’ve missed with him out of the line-up. We look forward to having him back.”
Leading Florida State is ACC Player of the Year Mat Cloer (Brevard, NC). Currently ranked 27th in the country, the junior is only the third player in conference history to win the league’s top award two years in a row. The Seminoles also have one of the top doubles teams in the nation, the sophomore tandem of Jeff Groslimond (Atlanta, Ga.) and Chris Westerhof (Durban, South Africa).The duo’s 26 wins in 2004 set the school’s single-season record for victories.
During the Seminoles’ first trip to the NCAA Tournament under Hultquist in 2003, the Tribe went 1-1 in the Gainesville Regional. Florida State started with a 4-2 victory over Miami before falling to the host Gators. Last year’s trip to the national summit was the first for the Seminoles since 1998 when they ended a five-year run under head coach David Barron.