Instilling a standard of excellence in its athletes, the Atlantic Coast Conference, now in its 45th year of collegiate competition, has long been a leader in athletics and academics. Spanning through the past five decades, the ACC has placed its schools on the forefront of athletic advancement with it’s state-of-the-art athletic facilities and numerous progressive academic support systems.
Men’s tennis began in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1954. From 1954 to 1978, North Carolina dominated the conference championships. During that time, there were only three years that the Tar Heels were absent from the team championships. In the 1980’s, it was Clemson that mounted a streak, winning the crown nine times in 10 years. North Carolina and Duke have split the dominance in the early 1990’s, but Florida State is set in their ways to make a strong run for the title in ’98.
The tradition of ACC men’s tennis is historically strong and 1997 took no exception to that fact. The ACC had at one time or another eight schools ranked in the Rolex/ITA nationl Top 50, with Duke University a mainstay in the Top 10. Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Florida State all positioned themselves among the elite Top 50 at least one week during the course of the past season.
Although the Blue Devils were the lone team representative at the 1997 NCAA Divivsion I Men’s Tennis Championships in Los Angeles, California, five other ACC schools took place in the earlier rounds of the NCAA regional competition. The conference also did well in the singles and doubles portion of the nine-day Championships earning five singles and two doubles invitations.
After starting the ACC portion of the 1997 schedule with a close loss to Virginia 4-3 at home, the injury-plagued Seminoles were about to enter what turned out to be a season-long seven-match losing streak that included losses to conference foes North Carolina and Duke. After breaking the slump to non-conference opponent New Mexico, FSU lossed a hard-fought effort to Clemson 4-3 at the Speicher Center. With a conference record of 0-4, the Seminoles knew they must re-group and enter the second portion of ACC competition with a new outlook. After dropping that close match to the Tigers on April 5th, FSU turned around and defeated the up and coming Georgia Tech squad 4-3 the very next day. Following that match with the Yellow Jackets, FSU ran off a string of three more victories to even up their conference record to 4-4.
Entering the Conference tournament FSU was seeded sixth and to face third-seeded North Carolina. FSU had lost to the Tar Heels twice in the regular season, one by head-to-head defeat in Chapel Hill and one by forfeit at the Blue-Gray national tournament. In the highly-anticipated rematch with UNC, the Seminoles jumped out first clinching the doubles point 2-1. FSU proceeded in upsetting the favored Tar Heels 4-2 as Ty Braswell clinched the match with a straight set win over Rob Tedesco at No. 2 singles. Trying to get the same results in the semifinals against No. 2 seed Clemson, the Seminoles fell short falling 4-2 with a three-set clinching decision at No. 3 singles. The opening win against UNC marked just the second time in ACC competition, regular or post season, that FSU has defeated the Tar Heels since the 1991-92 season. The win also gave FSU it’s third straight trip into the semifinals.