Saturday, April 13, 2013
Bucs look ahead to A-Sun Championship as No. 2 seed
KENNESAW, Ga. (April 13, 2013) – The No. 74 ETSU men’s tennis team closed out another regular season, extending its winning streak to six matches and building some additional momentum toward the Atlantic Sun Championships by defeating Kennesaw State, 7-0, Saturday afternoon form the Fair Oaks Tennis Center.
The seven-point sweep is ETSU’s (11-6, 7-1 A-Sun) fifth straight, closing the 2013 regular season schedule with shutouts of FGCU, Lipscomb, NKU, Mercer and the Owls. Since dropping its only decision of the conference season, 4-3, to No. 63 North Florida, the Buccaneers have slipped just one point in a match as part of a, 6-1, win at Stetson.
“The guys had a solid outing,” Director of ETSU Tennis Yaser Zaatini said. “We had two tough matches this weekend, but I’m proud of how strong the guys pushed to the finish line.”
Senior Jesus Bandres (Caracas, Venezuela) fought off another top A-Sun opponent, defeating Tobi Menhofer, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, to cap off the last regular season match of his tremendous ETSU career. Bandres will enter the 2013 Championships 19-11 overall, 13-3 dual and 7-1 in the A-Sun. The reigning A-Sun Tournament MVP made it a clean day in doubles, teaming with his usual partner, Rogerio Ribeiro (Sao Paulo, Brazil) to get by Menhofer and Maksim Yorsh on court one, 8-2.
Just one other singles match was pushed to three sets, with sophomore Ricardo Pabon (Bogota, Columbia) fighting his way to another victory and capping the sweep, 4-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-8) at No. 6 over Alexander Pena. Pabon has won his last five matches, going 9-4 at the No. 6 spot on the 2013 campaign.
Ribeiro, Juan Ramirez (Asuncion, Paraguay), Jorge Varon (Valencia, Venezuela) and Roger Ordeig (Gurb, Spain) had an easier time, winning in straights. Varon saw the toughest of the four matches, being pushed to a second-set tiebreak and prevailing, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2). Ordeig clinched the team victory on court five, 6-2, 6-1 over Gokalp Ozdemir.
Now, it is on to the 2013 A-Sun Tournament Championships, which ETSU has won each of the last six years. For just the second time in that stretch, the Bucs will not enter as regular season champions – USC Upstate in 2010 – but they will have the support of their friends and family as the Bucs host the three-day tournament from the ETSU Tennis Complex beginning Friday.
Coach Zaatini knows how hard the task of winning a seventh will be, but also knows his Buccaneers have what it takes.
“The guys are prepared,” said Zaatini, who has coached the Bucs to each of their six A-Sun Tournament Championships. “Even though the final results have looked dominating, there have been a lot of tough, close battles within the match. It will, by no means, be easy. It is extremely tough to keep performing at such a high level.
“The gentlemen are not as deep as we have been in the past. Next weekend will be a matter of who is going to step up and how we are going to hang around. For sure, we will give it our best fight.”
As for the prospect of potentially going head-to-head with UNF, should ETSU advance to the finals against the top seed, Zaatini knows the team needs to put off the regular season loss and go in with a new mindset.
“The guys who won will certainly have more confidence,” said Zaatini, referring to the Bucs who came away victorious in the UNF defeat. “It is still a loss. That being said, it is a brand new ball game. You can’t compare, contrast or even draw a situation where it’s similar. These guys know what they are going up against and it is all about how we prepare.
“First, we have to focus on the semifinals where we will be in for a fight.”
ETSU takes on the winner of No. 3 seed Stetson (15-3, 6-2 A-Sun) and No. 6 Lipscomb (7-11, 3-5 A-Sun) next Saturday in the A-Sun semifinals.
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