The 1997 Florida State men’s tennis team completed it’s regular season by qualifying for NCAA regional tournament play at the campus of Georgia Tech in the Region II Tournament. It’s the fourth straight season that the men’s team have advanced to post-season play.
The men’s team (16-12), led by senior Antonio Prieto and sophomore Ty Braswell, were seeded seventh and to face the No. 2 seed and 16th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the Region II Championships. Although the men dropped the match, 4-1, to the Rams to complete the season, their 16 victories surpassed the 1996 win total of 15 wins.
The season was also highlighted by seventh-year head coach Dave Barron who achieved his 100th win career victory earlier in the season against Jacksonville.
Prieto returned to the Seminole line up in ’97, after spending the ’96 season in his home country of Brazil. He returned to his form of old, earning a national ranking each of the ITA/Rolex posting dates.
Braswell was a key factor all season long playing at the No. 2 singles position. His clutch play led him to a 2-0 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, including the match-clinching win against North Carolina’s Rob Tedesco in the quarterfinal round and over eventual tournament MVP Bruce Li of Clemson in FSU’s ACC tournament ending loss. The Seminoles, seeded sixth at the ACC tournament, upset third-seeded UNC 4-2. It was just the second time since joining the ACC in 1992 that FSU defeated the Tar Heels.
With a dificult 1997 dual match schedule that began at No. 3 ranked Mississippi State, FSU had some quality wins. Of that ’97 schedule, 19 out of 28 matches were against nationally-ranked opponents by season’s end and wins occurred versus nationally ranked squads such as Florida, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. It was those victories that kept the Seminoles among the region’s finest.
The ACC had nearly every one of it’s teams nationally ranked during the 1996 season and seven teams, including the Seminoles, nationally ranked by season’s end.
In a dual match doubleheader on February 22nd, Barron achieved what only two other former FSU head coaches had attained in the programs 50-year history. Against Jacksonville in the morning match the Seminoles won 5-0, giving Barron his 100th career victory. The ‘Noles also picked up the afternoon match against Central Florida 5-1. Barrons currently stands at 111-66. He should become the all-time winningest coach in FSU history during the 1998 dual match season.
After defeating Top-10 Duke in 1996, FSU repeated on major upsets with a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Florida Gators in front of a number raucous fans down in Gainesville. The win was part of FSU’s nine match win streak earlier in the season, one of the longest under Coach Barron’s tenure.