Patriot tennis teams earn NCAA bids

Patriot tennis teams earn NCAA bids

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The Francis Marion University men's and women's tennis teams have both been extended an invitation to the 2012 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 (17-3) will play in the Southeast Regional #2 in Columbus, Ga., on April 29.  FMU will face 29th-ranked and sixth-seeded Wingate University (18-4) at noon on Sunday.  Seventh-ranked and second-seeded Columbus State (25-2) will play 30th-ranked and seventh-seeded Georgia College (13-10) 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 Top Gun Tennis Academy in Louisville, Ky., on May 16-19 as a part of the 2012 NCAA DII Spring Championship Festival.

After missing the tournament in 2011, the Francis Marion women return to the NCAAs for the sixth time in seven years, and the 11th time in the past 18 years.  FMU captured regional championships in 2008 and 2009.

FMU beat the Wingate women 9-0 on March 20 in Florence.

The 10-ranked and fifth-seeded Patriot men (10-6) will play 29th-ranked and fourth-seeded Georgia College (11-8) on Monday at 2 p.m. at Bacon Park in Savannah, Ga.

Play at the men's regional actually begins on Sunday when eighth-seeded Wingate (18-6) faces ninth-seeded Mount Olive College (18-6) in a 4 p.m. first-round match.  The winner of that match will face top-ranked, top-seeded, and host Armstrong Atlantic State University (24-0) in the semifinals on Monday at 2 p.m.  

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

This is the fifth consecutive trip to the NCAAs for the FMU men, and the 16th in the past 18 years.   The Patriots are 13-15 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.

Francis Marion defeated Georgia College 6-3 on March 11 in Florence, but was upset by the Bobcats 5-3 last week at the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

Long-time FMU head coach Garth Thomson has directed the Patriot men to a 284-140 record in 20 seasons, while his women's mark stands at 262-165.