May 4, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
While the Florida State University men’s tennis team had hopes of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Seminoles will have to settle for life on the road. The No. 18 Seminoles’ trip to College Station, Texas, goes through the University of Kentucky, as they will play their opening match against Ball State on Saturday, May 14 at 9 a.m (EDT).
Coming off an appearance in the finals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Florida State received one of the 33 at-large spots in the field of 64 and drew the number two seed for the Lexington regional. A victory over the Cardinals would pit the Tribe against the winner of the Kentucky versus Butler match on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“It’s a good draw for us, but I’m kind of surprised that they sent us to Kentucky, I didn’t think we’d go there,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “We’re eager to get up there and take on Ball State. They beat Illinois in doubles and we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”
Ball State is ranked 75th in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Poll and received an automatic bid as the winner of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. This will be the first meeting between the two schools. Coming into the tournament with a record of 20-5, Ball State has the No. 24 doubles team in the country in Matt Baccarani and Patrick Thompson.
Florida State has a 5-3 advantage over Kentucky with the last meeting coming in 1986 and has never played Butler. The Wildcats come into the tournament as the No. 12 seed, which matches their national ranking. Unranked Butler is 15-12 on the year and received the automatic bid as the Horizon League champion.
This is Florida State’s third-straight appearance in the Big Dance under Hultquist and the first three-peat for the Seminoles since its run of five consecutive trips from 1994-98. Hultquist started his collegiate tennis coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kentucky during the 1991 season. The six-year net boss needs just one more victory to become the fifth coach in school history with 80 or more victories.
“Our goal is to make it to the final site so we’re not satisfied by just getting into the tournament,” Hultquist added. “We’ve won ten of our last 12 matches, but I feel that we’ve got our best tennis ahead of us. We’ve been training hard and hopefully we get better during the next week and a half.”
Year six in the Hultquist era has been Florida State’s best in a decade. This week’s ranking is the Seminoles’ first inside the top 20 since the 1995 campaign when a win over Florida vaulted the school to No. 16. The 18 victories is the most since the ’95 edition went 18-9, while the .720 winning percentage (18-7) is the highest since the 1985 squad won at a .862 clip with its 25-4 mark.
While this is Florida State’s seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last decade, the team has never advanced past the second round under the current format, which began in 1977. Since making its first appearance in the tournament in 1994, the Seminoles own a 2-7 record. FSU’s last NCAA Tournament victory came in 2003 when it beat Miami 4-2 in Gainesville. Last season the Seminoles’ dropped a 4-3 decision to Arizona in the first round.
“Now it’s a new season and we have to put what we’ve done in the past behind us and focus on Ball State,” Hultquist noted. “We’ve had guys play well throughout the year, but now we need to have everyone playing well at the same time.”
Leading the Seminoles with his third-straight All-ACC selection is two-time league Player of the Year Mat Cloer (Brevard, N.C.). After Florida State finishes its team competition the senior captain will take part in the NCAA Singles Tournament. Currently ranked 26th in the latest ITA Poll, Cloer was joined on the All-ACC team this year by senior Chip Webb (Chattanooga, Tenn.), who won the Flight 6 singles title.