Adversity awaits Bucs amid pursuit of eighth straight conference championship
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Jan. 15, 2014) – The ETSU men’s tennis team will begin its pursuit of an eighth consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship when it kicks off regular season play Saturday, Jan. 18 at No. 19 Wake Forest; however the 2014 campaign will present challenges unlike any the Bucs have faced in recent memory.
Returning just five players from last season’s squad, ETSU’s task of defending its A-Sun title posed a difficult challenge. However, the challenge steepened mightily when 2013 All-Atlantic Sun First Team selection Rogerio Ribeiro (Sao Paulo, Brazil) sustained a serious injury during this fall’s ITA/Ohio Valley Regionals in Knoxville, Tenn.
“The loss of Rogerio [Ribeiro] is going to put us in a deep predicament,” ETSU head coach Yaser Zaatini said.
With the indefinite absence of Ribeiro from the lineup, 2013 All-Atlantic Sun Second Team honorees Roger Ordeig (Gurb, Spain) and Ricardo Pabon (Bogota, Columbia) enter the spring as the only returning Buccaneer players with dual match experience.
“The spark plugs of the team have been Rogerio [Ribeiro], Roger [Ordeig], and Ricardo [Pabon],” Zaatini said.” “With Rogerio out, Roger and Ricardo have picked up the slack. We have great leadership.”
Amassing a combined career singles record of 30-2 in conference play, Ordeig and Pabon will join returning players Fernando Amon (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Connor Knox (Bristol, Tenn.) in welcoming seven newcomers to the ETSU squad, which was ranked No. 66 in the year's first ITA Men's National Team Rankings.
University of Tennessee sophomore transfer Sebastian Yllera (Cinco Saltos, Argentina) and freshmen David Biosca (Sant Fruitos De Bage, Spain), Joao Gabriel da Silva (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Conner Huertas Del Pino (Lima, Peru), Ismael Merino (Lima, Peru), Diego Nunez (Monterrey, Mexico), Umberto Setter (Bedano, Switzerland) round out the Buccaneers’ lineup.
“The bottom line is we’re young,” Zaatini said. “This is no doubt a team full of talent, but when you line up four players with kids who have never played a dual match, you’re going to hit rocky air. They are going to learn the hard way.”
The freshman-laden ETSU team will begin the 2014 campaign with 12 consecutive road matches, including three difficult match-ups this weekend.
The Buccaneers will take on No. 19 Wake Forest Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in Winston-Salem and Brown Sunday at 10:00 a.m. before travelling to Knoxville where it will face off with No. 6 Tennessee Monday at 10:00 a.m.
“Starting off, this is our gauging week,” Zaatini said. “After playing this weekend, the young guys will discover that other teams have great tennis players, and gain experience to develop as the season goes along.”
While the ultimate goal of winning an Atlantic Sun title remains in place, Zaatini recognizes the challenging process that awaits this year’s young squad.
“Winning a championship is always our goal,” Zaatini said. “That will always be in the back of our minds, but the only thing required from me is that the players do their best. After that, everything will have to fall in place."
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