May 4, 2006 - by

Seminoles Will Be Dancing In Oxford!


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May 4, 2006


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the fourth year in a row and in front of over 100 fans at a selection show watch party, the No. 17 Florida State men’s tennis team (17-11, 8-3 ACC) received one of the 33 at-large spots in the 2006 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.    The Seminoles, who drew a No. 2 seed in the Oxford (Miss.) Regional, will face No. 44-ranked Auburn (14-10, 4-8 SEC) on Saturday, May 13, at 3 p.m. (EDT) on the campus of the University of Mississippi


No. 14 Ole Miss earned the right to host the regional with a 14th overall seed in the NCAA Tournament; the Rebels (20-5, 13-4 SEC) will battle Belmont (7-8) before the Auburn/FSU match at noon (EDT). 


“I was a little bit surprised,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said.  “I thought we would either be hosting in Tallahassee or traveling to Gainesville.  It turns out we weren’t in either.  I guess the committee ended up selecting Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and I really thought we had a chance to be that 16th seed.  I knew it would be close but the determining thing was we lost our head-to-head match with the Aggies and that’s what probably cost us.” 


Hultquist’s disappointment was short-lived, though, as he and assistant coach Nick Crowell quickly shifted their focus on to the Auburn Tigers.  


 “I don’t know a whole lot about Auburn because we haven’t played them in about five years,” Hultquist said.    “I really don’t know their players…I think all SEC teams are really good so we’ll just have to be ready to go.”


The Seminoles and Tigers have a deep history that dates back to the 1953 season.  In fact, the two schools have faced one another 23 times and the Seminoles own a 13-10 edge.  The last time Florida State battled Auburn, the Tigers knocked the Seminoles out of the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament.  That was before lone senior Chris Westerhof was on the team and during Hultquist’s second year as head coach at FSU. 


This is Florida State’s fourth-straight appearance in the Big Dance under Hultquist and the first four-peat for the Seminoles since its run of five consecutive trips from 1994-98. The seven-year net boss needs one more victory to reach career win No. 100 at FSU and two wins to become the school’s third all-time winningest coach by 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 9 of our last 12 matches, but I feel that we’ve got our best tennis ahead of us. We’ve been training hard and we are in great shape.”


Leading the way for the Seminoles is first team All-ACC selection, junior Ytai Abougzir, who is ranked No. 36 in singles.  He and Chris Westerhof make up the No. 11th-ranked duo in the nation and have won seven straight matches. 


“I am always looking forward to post-season play and I’m excited about the regional we drew,” said Westerhof, who has been to the NCAA Tournament four straight years.  “We have been working really hard this week and we are looking forward to some good competition at the NCAA Tournament.” 


Auburn, which is ranked 44th in the latest ITA ranking released on May 1, finished the season with an overall record of 14-10 and was 4-7 in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers faced six opponents currently ranked in the top-25 this season, including No.1 Georgia.


“We are excited to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament again this year,” Auburn head coach Eric Shore said. “We look forward to playing Florida State in a familiar setting at Ole Miss.”


For the seventh time in eight years, Ole Miss will be hosting the regionals. 


“We’ve hosted six of the last seven years,” head coach Billy Chadwick said,  “and the visiting team and fans always feel that this is one of the best locations in the country.  Our tradition of hosting may very well be the determining factor in the committee’s decision.”


Tickets for the regional can be purchased by calling (662) 915-7167 or toll-free 1-888-732-8587. Single day tickets are $7 and a two-day pass is $10.


Following the announcement, the team, staff, administrators and fans gathered at the “Unconquered” statue which sits on Williams Plaza at Langford Green just south of Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium for the lighting of the spear.


FSU adopted a policy two months ago that allows flames to lap more frequently from the spear of the “Unconquered” statue recognizing events of great significance and accomplishment on the FSU campus.


 “I think the coaches and players take a lot of pride in the Seminole spirit,” Hultquist commented.  “Lighting the torch tonight and having a selection show was really special and something we are looking forward to each year.  We have the best fans in the nation and it was really special for our team and program to receive that amount of support.”

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