FMU tennis teams open 2013 seasons

The nationally ranked Francis Marion University women's and men's tennis teams will open their 2013 season when they entertain Barton College on Saturday (Feb. 2) at 1 p.m. on the Kassab Courts.

Admission is free.

The Patriots Women are ranked 10th and the men 20th in the 2013 pre-season Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division II Top 50 polls

Head coach Garth Thomson has six returnees from last year's 18-4 women's squad that reached the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional #2. Only two of the losses came during the regular season.

He welcomes back four lettermen on the men's side from a team that went 10-7 and reached the semifinals of the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament.

Seniors Mona Blauen and Tereza Baranova lead the women returnees.  Blauen, who was recently named to the PBC preseason All-Conference Team, ranks 24th in the Division II women's national singles rankings and seventh in the regional rankings. The 2012 All-American also ranks 17th nationally among women's double teams and fourth regionally, along with partner Julia Graf.

Last spring, Blauen registered a near perfect 18-1 mark in singles play. In doubles competition, she compiled a 19-3 record, including an 11-1 mark in Peach Belt Conference play.  In three seasons, she owns career marks of 48-7 in singles and 51-11 in doubles.

Baranova, last year's team most valuable player, was 12-1 in singles play last spring and 14-4 in doubles.

Other returnees include senior Kerry Hall (12-2 singles, 14-6 doubles in 2012), junior Kimberley Hurter (15-5, 10-4), junior Caitlin Siney (5-5, 8-2), and Graf (17-2, 18-4), who is a sophomore.

The team's newcomers are freshmen Charne McClurkin (Rideway, S.C.), Lena Specht (Schwetzingen, Germany), and Nora Westbye (Lillestrom, Norway).

Senior Alex Caspari leads the returning men's players.  He is ranked 10th nationally among Division II men's singles players and third regionally.  The men's doubles pair of Caspari and sophomore Gavin Davison is 12th nationally in the Division II men's doubles rankings and fifth regionally.

Caspari posted a 14-2 singles record in 2012 and this past fall he reached the semifinals of the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional Tournament. Last season, he was 6-2 against nationally ranked players. He and Davison registered a 13-4 doubles record and both earned All-America recognition.

Davison was 8-8 in singles play as a freshman.

Other returnees include junior Tim Ruepke (7-6, 9-8) and sophomore Luke Bateup (6-4, 0-0).

Joining the squad for 2013 are sophomores Eimon Heywood, a transfer from Division I Jacksonville University, and Marius Wahlier (Cologne, Germany) and freshmen Patrick Hensley (Lynchburg, S.C.), Arnaud Holl (Walldorf, Germany), and Rod Russell (Hartsville, SC).

Entering his 21st season at FMU, Thomson has directed the FMU women to a 263-166 record, while the men boast a 284-141 mark over that same time.  The women have made six trips to the NCAAs in the past seven years, and 11 in the past 18 seasons, while the Patriot men have made five straight appearances and 16 in the past 18 seasons.