Men’s tennis qualifies for first A-Sun tournament
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 23:04
To call this season a comeback success for the FGCU men’s tennis team would be an understatement.
After a thrilling clinching match against Belmont on April 14, where FGCU fell in doubles but roared back with four singles wins, the Eagles are heading to its first Atlantic Sun Tournament.
FGCU is seeded sixth in the A-Sun Tournament, which runs from Friday though Sunday in Johnson City, Tenn.
Matt Rock, a FGCU senior facing the possibility of his final match and playing for his first shot at post-season play, clinched the tournament birth with 6-4, 6-2 at No. 4 singles.
“I screamed as loud as I could and everybody rushed at me,” Rock said. “I was so happy. Making the conference tournament in the final match just gave me the chills.”
First-year coach C.J. Weber had a feeling that FGCU would be good from the start, though he inherited a roster with only two new players from last season’s 3-18 (1-9 A-Sun) squad.
“From the very beginning I was impressed with the team,” Weber said. “I liked their work ethic and I liked their response to my coaching philosophy that I tried to implement.”
Weber, a former assistant at Miami and the University of Illinois, immediately instituted a more rigorous practice schedule than in the past and put more of an emphasis on fitness.
“When I really felt we could make a splash in the conference was after our first conference matchup when we beat Kennesaw (St.) and Mercer,” Weber said. The guys have all been working very hard and they’ve all been very focused in practice.”
Before last weekend, FGCU knew it had to win at least one of two matches to qualify for its first A-Sun Tournament.
After losing to Lipscomb on April 13 to start the weekend, the Eagle felt no pressure in a must win at Belmont.
“We thought that we had to beat Lipscomb in order to get in,” Weber said. “When we lost to them and found out that we needed to beat Belmont it gave us a second wind.”
The Eagles’ poor performance in road matches was a motivator. FGCU hadn’t won a road match before Saturday.
“We have not been very good on the road this year, and in the singles against Belmont the guys decided that they had enough and did what they needed to do,” Weber said. “It’s impossible to describe that feeling (winning) but it was definitely the most fulfilling moment of my career. For it to come down to senior Matt Rock clinching our first postseason bid is really special.”
Rock waited for his first three years, before FGCU was eligible for post-season play.
“I’ve wanted to get to the conference tournament since last year,” Rock said. “We were ineligible and my number one goal was getting to the tournament.”
Rock feels FGCU can shake up the conference tournament.
The Eagles will face No. 3 seed Stetson in the first round.
Stetson beat FGCU 5-2 on April 7, but the Eagles think they can pull off an upset.
“The atmosphere of the team is very, very positive,” Rock said. “We’re all going in there thinking that we’re beating Stetson in the first round.”