FMU tennis teams travel to PBC Tennis Tournament

Florence, SC - From Francis Marion University:

FLORENCE, SC – Both the nationally ranked Francis Marion University men's and women's tennis teams will travel to Jonesboro, GA, this weekend for the 2010 Peach Belt Conference Tournaments, which are being hosted by Clayton State University at the Clayton County Tennis Center.

The winner of each single-elimination event will capture the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament, while other squads are vying for at-large invitations.

The tournaments will begin with one men's match and one women's match on Friday at noon, with other quarterfinal matches to follow on Friday afternoon and evening.  The semifinals will be Saturday afternoon, with both championship matches set for Sunday (women at 10 a.m. and men at 1 p.m.).

The PBC Tournament format has changed for this year.  Instead of all conference teams advancing to tournament play, only the top eight seeds will vie for the championship.

Both FMU squads are ranked 13th nationally and seeded fourth for the PBC Tournament.

The Francis Marion women (15-4) will meet fifth-seeded Flagler (14-6) on Friday at 2 p.m., while the 10-6 Patriot men will also play fifth-seeded Flagler College (13-7), later on Friday at 5 p.m.

The PBC men's tournament will be one of the premier Division II events in the nation with all eight squads ranked among the Top 26 in the latest ITA national poll.  Peach Belt players also account for 20% of the top 50 ranked singles players in the country.

Top-ranked and five-time defending tournament champion Armstrong Atlantic State University is the No.1 seed for the men's tournament.  AASU is also the two-time defending NCAA Division II national champion.

The Patriot men are led by the nation's top-ranked singles player, Dilshod Sharifi (14-1).  Junior Oshada Wijemanne (10-4) is ranked 14th nationally in singles. The two juniors also form FMU's No.1 doubles team and are 9-4 and ranked sixth nationally.

Five of FMU's losses have been to teams ranked 23rd or higher in the national poll, with the other loss being to a Division I opponent.

Like the men, the PBC women's tournament will be one of the top Division II women's events in the nation with all eight teams ranked 32nd or higher. PBC singles players also account for 30% of the top 50 ranked players in the country.

AASU will again be the No.1 seed for the women's draw. The Lady Pirates won their 16th PBC championship in the regular season by going undefeated in conference play for the seventh year in a row, and have won 74 straight regular-season conference matches dating back to 2003. The two-time defending Division II national champion, AASU is 24-0 overall in 2010.

The Francis Marion women are paced by senior Tereza Sykorova at No.1 singles. She is ranked ninth in the nation with a 15-3 singles mark.  Junior Jitka Gavdunova is ranked 34th with a 15-4 singles record and junior Sabina Baberadova is 17-2 and ranked 36th.

The doubles team of Sykorova and Baberadova (17-2) is ranked second in the country, while Gavdunova and freshman Mona Blauen (18-1) are ranked 13th.

The Patriots have won seven of eight matches heading into the tournament, the lone loss coming to AASU on Monday.

Both FMU squads beat Flagler in the regular-season meeting on March 27 in Florence.

Neither FMU tennis team has ever won a PBC Tournament championship.  The Patriot men lost in the 2001 title match, and the women reached the championship match each of the past two years.