|Seahawks Begin NCAA Tennis Regionals|
WILMINGTON, North Carolina – UNCW men’s tennis coach Mait DuBois and his team have crossed off several items on their checklist the last few years: first national ranking, first NCAA postseason berth, first NCAA at-large berth, first ranked singles player, first ranked doubles team, first entries into the NCAA’s singles and doubles championships.
Now, there’s one more.
“Advancing in the NCAA Tournament has always been a goal for us,” said DuBois, whose 53rd-ranked team travels to Durham early Friday to take on No. 17 South Carolina in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Tennis Regionals. “We know it’s within our grasp and something we’ve prepared to do. We’re focusing on the preparation and know the results will come from it.”
The Seahawks and Gamecocks battle at 10 a.m. at Duke’s Ambler Tennis Center, with the host Blue Devils, ranked ninth, taking on Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. Duke is the No. 1 seed in the first-round bracket, followed by USC, UNCW and CCU. The winners play Saturday at 1 p.m. for the right to advance to the NCAA’s Final 16 in Urbana, Ill.
“For me, it’s about what we can do today to take another step forward. You only get one shot during the year at the NCAA Tournament. Our focus has been better than it’s ever been the last couple weeks.”
The Seahawks, 18-4, recently captured their third outright Colonial Athletic Association championship to secure their fourth NCAA berth in five seasons.
Talented junior Rafael Aita is ranked 54th by the ITA and brings a 15-5 record into Friday’s match. The CAA Player-of-the-Year has been ranked throughout the season and defeated No. 28 Mac Styslinger of Virginia, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (9), and No. 32 Jared Hiltzik of Illinois, 6-3, 6-4, in the Virginia Ranked+1 Invitational in late September, and knocked off South Carolina’s Tsvetan Mihov, ranked 31st, by a 7-6 (7), 7-6 (2) score on Feb. 20 in Columbia.
The Seahawks have won the doubles point in 19 of 22 matches this spring behind the No. 1 tandem of Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider, who have fashioned a 12-4 record. The pair has won eight of its last 10 matches and defeated Styslinger and Jarmere Jenkins of Virginia, 8-6, in the Virginia Ranked+1 Invitational.
UNCW and USC are meeting for the fourth time on the courts and the Gamecocks slipped past the Seahawks in all three matches by identical 4-3 scores. The Gamecocks squeezed out a 4-3 decision in Columbia on Feb. 20 in the last matchup. USC swept the doubles point and added three singles victories for the close decision.
“I think teams evolve over a season,” DuBois continued. “South Carolina is a well-coached team. I’m sure they feel like they’ve made some strides. But we’ve made a lot, too. Both teams are going to have opportunities and it’s just a matter of who steps up and takes those opportunities.”
USC brings an 18-10 record into the early-morning match after tying for third in the Southeastern Conference under third-year coach Josh Goffi, the SEC’s Coach-of-the-Year. The Gamecocks, an at-large entry, are 13-19 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches and are making their 21st appearance in the NCAA’s.
The Gamecocks knocked off eighth-ranked Kentucky in the regular season finale and split a pair of matches against No. 20 LSU (W, 4-3) and No. 15 Florida (L, 4-0) in the SEC Tournament.
USC features one ranked singles player and two ranked doubles teams. Mihov stands 15-10 this spring and is ranked No. 31. Mihov and teammate Chip Cox own a 12-10 record and No. 17 ranking. The doubles team of Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies is ranked 39th.
UNCW’s NCAA Tournament History
UNCW Vs. South Carolina In Men’s Tennis