Men's Tennis Enjoys Year of Firsts in 2011-12
Monday, May 07, 2012 | by Justin Glover (@Jglove3)
Photo by Cary Tsamas
Photo by Cary Tsamas

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A year removed from a 1-9 Atlantic Sun conference record, the FGCU men’s tennis team finished the 2011-12 season with its first-ever appearance in the A-Sun championships and restored a winning tradition for the program.

“This was a special year for all those involved in the program.” said first-year head coach C.J. Weber. “With it being the first year we were eligible for postseason play, it was great to be able to represent ourselves in the A-Sun Championships.”

The Eagles’ seven wins was their best season since winning 10 matches in 2008, their first year in Division I. The Green and Blue’s biggest win was a comeback 4-3 victory on the road against A-Sun foe Belmont to clinch their first-ever tournament berth. FGCU was down 1-0 after losing the doubles point and responded by winning four of the six singles matches to stun the Bruins. Fittingly, senior Matthew Rock (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Fort Lauderdale HS/Jacksonville) clinched the comeback with a straight sets win at No. 4 singles.

“It was great seeing the transformation of the team from our first tournament of the year at USF in September to the A-Sun tournament in April,” said Weber. “The players went through a complete makeover of how they see themselves as tennis players and competitors. They learned so much about themselves and I’m looking forward to what is ahead for this program in future years.”

After picking up two wins against Georgia Southern (5-2) and Bethune-Cookman (5-2), sophomore Dean Tsamas (Lexington, Ky./Henry Clay HS) claimed his first career A-Sun Player of the Week award, the team’s first A-Sun Player of the Week award since 2008 when Andrew Kam was honored.

On Thursday, March 1, FGCU started a new trend by hosting their first-ever night match at the FGCU Tennis Complex against A-Sun rival Kennesaw State. The Eagles didn’t disappoint a record crowd of 207, earning a 5-2 victory over the Owls.

A week later, the Eagles accomplished another feat by defeating Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 7-0, earning their first shutout since 2008. On March 31, FGCU picked up its sixth home win with a 6-1 victory against Jacksonville to clinch a winning record at the FGCU Tennis Complex.

Freshmen Tianyu Bao (Tianjin, China/Bayshore HS) and Michael Beiler (Palm Harbor, Fla./Dunedin HS) had sensational first seasons with the Eagles and were award postseason awards for their efforts. Bao went 2-0 against ranked opponents after defeating then-No. 83 Ivan Turudic (Penn) and then-No. 113 Maksim Levanovich (Stetson), who won the A-Sun Player of the Year award. Bao became the first Eagle to be honored as the A-Sun Freshman of the Year, and joined Beiler as the program’s first All-Freshmen selections. Beiler also had a solid freshman season, finishing with a 7-9 dual match record and a 5-4 mark in A-Sun action at No. 6 singles.

Under Weber’s guidance, the Green and Blue doubled their win total from a season ago with seven victories this year. FGCU returns five of its six starters in the singles lineup in hopes of a return trip to the A-Sun Championships next season. The Eagles’ also added two freshmen for next season in Chris Perrigan (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay College Prep. School) and Dylan Gunning (Boca Raton, Fla./Olympics Heights HS).