FMU tennis teams both earn NCAA invites

FMU tennis teams both earn NCAA invites

The Francis Marion University men's and women's tennis teams have both received at-large invitations to the 2013 NCAA Division II National Tournament.  Both teams will play in the Southeast Regional this coming week.

The 10th-ranked and third-seeded Francis Marion women (22-3) will play in the Southeast Regional #2 in Columbus, Ga., on Sunday (April 28).  FMU will face 45th-ranked and sixth-seeded Erskine College (18-5) at noon on Sunday.  Sixth-ranked and second-seeded Columbus State (20-3) will play 49th-ranked and seventh-seeded Wingate University (19-5) in the other first-round match on Sunday at 9 a.m.  The matches will be played at the Mary V. Blackmon Tennis Center on the CSU campus.

The two winners will meet on Monday at 2 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 National Championships at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Ariz., on May 8-11.

The Francis Marion women are in the NCAAs for the seventh time in eight years, and the 12th time in the past 19 years.  FMU captured regional championships in 2008 and 2009, and lost to CSU in last year's regional title match.

FMU beat Erskine 6-3 on Feb. 6 in Due West, S.C.  The Patriots will be looking to tie the school record for wins in a season with their 23rd victory.  The Flying Fleet recently captured their ninth consecutive Conference Carolinas championship.

The 27th-ranked and fifth-seeded Patriot men (15-8) will play 17th-ranked and fourth-seeded Georgia College (18-6) on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Bacon Park in Savannah, Ga.  The contest is a re-match of a semifinal match in last year's regional that Georgia College won 5-2.  The Bobcats also beat the Patriots 8-1 in this season's regular-season meeting, March 30 in Milledgeville, Ga.

Play at the men's regional actually begins on Saturday when eighth-seeded Limestone College (18-7) faces ninth-seeded Lincoln Memorial University (14-5) in a 2 p.m. first-round match.  The winner of that match will face top-ranked, top-seeded, and host Armstrong Atlantic State University (22-1) in the semifinals on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The two semifinal winners will meet at 2 p.m. on Monday for a berth in the Men's Sweet 16 National Championships, also in Surprise, Ariz.

This is the sixth consecutive trip to the NCAAs for the FMU men, and the 17th in the past 19 years.   The Patriots are 13-16 all-time in NCAA tournament competition.  Francis Marion won a regional title in 2008, lost in the regional semifinals in 2009 and 2011, and advanced to the regional title match in 2010.

Long-time FMU head coach Garth Thomson has directed the Patriot men to a 299-149 record in 21 seasons, and will be looking for his 300th win when FMU faces the Bobcats.  His women's mark stands at 285-169, also in this his 21st campaign.