Jan. 20, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Seven months after making its first trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, the 11th-ranked Florida State men’s tennis team begins the 2006 dual season Saturday (Jan. 21) against Florida Atlantic University. First swing is set for 1 p.m. at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center. Tomorrow’s match will also be the Owl’s first dual contest of the season.
“We have been practicing since early January,” said Florida State head coach Dwayne Hultquist, who has led the program to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. “So, we are definitely ready to start playing someone other than ourselves. We are looking forward to tomorrow and we’re going to have the opportunity to play several guys who will compete in their first college match. We’re excited to see how they are going to perform under pressure.”
While Saturday marks the first team event of the season for the Seminoles, Florida State freshman Chris Cloer, junior Ytai Abougzir and senior Chris Westerhof competed in the 2006 Sherwood Collegiate Cup last weekend in California. Westerhof jumpstarted his senior campaign on a good note, claiming titles in both the singles back draw and doubles. Abougzir, the 72nd-ranked player in the country, and Westerhof won their semifinals match 8-1 over Stanford’s Chris Rasmussen and James Wan. During the championship match, the duo overcame the Matt Bruch and James Pade pair, 8-3.
“Winning doubles made a big statement” said Hultquist, “but also Chris winning the back draw was really good for him because he is coming off an injury. I do think that as far as doubles go, Ytai and Chris’ win was probably the biggest individual honor we have won at a tournament.”
FAU, under the direction of first year head tennis coach David Komie, enters the match with seven veterans and three newcomers. Just this week, the Owls announced the addition of freshman Corey Smith to the 2006 roster. Smith, a 4-star recruit with a national recruit ranking as high as 70 per Tennisrecruiting.net, will make his collegiate debut Saturday. The meeting between the Owls and Seminoles will be the eighth meeting of all-time, with Florida State owning a perfect 7-0 mark. The Tribe has not lost an opening day match in four straight seasons.
Everything Changes In Just One Moment.
In May of last season,
While the 2005 season is long gone, FSU did not miss a step during the fall campaign which was evident by three important factors. First, the team earned a 2006 preseason national ranking of No. 11, the highest ever ranking for a Seminole tennis program that dates back to 1948. The Seminoles also jumpstarted the season with four players ranked among the top-72 in the country and head coach Dwayne Hultquist and company will make an inaugural appearance at the 2006 USTA/ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship in February. Only the top-16 teams in the nation are invited to the event that takes place at the
After three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and record breaking crowds at the
FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist On His Team’s No. 11 Preseason Ranking:
“Personally I don’t feel any pressure but I think as a team we now know what it feels like to be ranked and climb higher and higher throughout the season. The majority of our players [this season] were on the team last year and they know what it’s like to win. You can tell they have a drive to be right back there again. The higher you are ranked the harder it is to climb.
“When you are preseason ranked No. 11 it’s difficult to move up. Plus, the majority of your matches are people you are already ranked ahead of so that’s a new challenge. I think last year over half of the people we played against were ranked ahead of us at the beginning of the year. This year we have only four or five matches against teams that are ranked in front of us. So, there’s that mindset that we have to come out and play strong and practice hard everyday. We stress that everyday in practice because that is how you prevent yourself from losing to lesser ranked teams during the season.”
Highlighting the Seminoles roster are five returning letterwinners including senior Chris Westerhof (Durban, South Africa), juniors Ytai Abougzir (Boca Raton, Fla.), Jason Hood (Columbia, SC), and Jonathas Sucupira (Sao Paula, Brazil), and sophomore Sam Chang (Young-Ming, Taiwan). Newcomers Andrew Bailey (
Just as impressive as the return of five veterans is the fact that four-of-eight Seminoles are ranked in the top-72 in the nation beginning with Sucupira at No. 36. He is followed by Chang (No. 49), Sykut (No. 58), and Abougzir (No. 72).
FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist On His Team:
“One of our challenges this season is the fact that we lost Mat Cloer. He played at our No. 1 singles spot the last three years, was the conference player of the year and an All-American. I feel like that is a major loss and so we will need some of our players at the top of the lineup to emerge and play really well.
“The strength of our team is that we have a lot of good players and we have four guys preseason ranked in the top-72 in the country. We have two doubles teams that are ranked. I truly believe that if Chris Westerhof would not have gotten hurt then we would probably have had another team ranked. In fact, they may be our best team when they are playing well. Chris may have also been ranked in singles if he did not get hurt, so we have a lot of good players.
“Our weakness is probably that we don’t have the depth I’d like to have. Right now I see freshman Drew Bailey as our No. 7 and I really see him improving and coming on quickly. I think if he keeps working hard he will emerge as a really good player for us. He is already coming on in doubles. So, my only concerns are our depth and the fact that we need players to materialize at the top of the lineup.”
THE SINGLES LINEUP
Hultquist and assistant coach Nick Crowell admitted that no one player is penciled in to play at the top singles position this season. A lot of variables are unknown and the coaches don’t expect the lineup to emerge until later on in the season.
FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist On Singles:
“I never like to set a certain lineup in singles but I see Jonathas or Ytai playing at the top of the lineup or some of the guys that have been here for awhile. We like to talk about wins and playing as a team versus what number an individual will play in singles. We may move it around a little bit and have people play in different spots. Everyone will definitely have to earn them a spot in the lineup. We have a lot of good players and that is one of the things you have to have in order to be a strong team. I feel really good because this is the first time that we have had this many guys ranked in singles.”
The Seminoles will start off dual action Jan. 21 battling FAU in
The ACC Tournament is scheduled for April 20-23 in
FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist On The Schedule:
“We have gone off the philosophy that we need to play the best teams both home and away. Our schedule this season is the most challenging we have ever had. We don’t have many matches people might consider easy. We will have tough matches all the way through. Then you have the indoor championship. If I had known we would be going there I probably would not have made our schedule so difficult. I also think our conference is the best it has ever been. I’m pretty confident in saying that I believe we are going to have 10 schools make the NCAA Tournament; that is pretty remarkable. We have such a tough schedule so that is why it will be important for us to stay healthy this season.”