FGCU Men's Tennis Team Opens Season on Saturday
FORT MYERS, FL – The #17 Florida Gulf Coast University men’s tennis team opens the 2005 season this weekend with a dual match Saturday morning at Saint Leo University. The home season for the Eagles begins next Tuesday, February 8 with a dual match at the FGCU Tennis Complex against Embry Riddle.
The matches mark the beginning of a 21-match regular season for FGCU, culminating with the NCAA Division II tournament in May. The Eagles will host 17 matches at the FGCU Tennis Complex, including four teams ranked among the top 16 teams in Division II, and three Division I foes.
Highlighting the home schedule are #5 Barry, #12 Armstrong Atlantic, #16 Lynn and #18 Eckerd. The Eagles will also host the University of Kentucky, ranked #13 in Division I. The Eagles will face #4 Rollins and #21 Florida Southern on the road.
Teams are required to post a .500 winning percentage or better against Division II competition to be considered for a NCAA tournament invitation.
Fourth-year head coach J. Webb Horton, who has led the Eagles to a 29-9 dual match record over the past two years, has the Eagles poised to challenge the school-record 17 wins posted in 2004 and earn a NCAA tournament bid in their first year of eligibility.
2005 FGCU Men’s Tennis Outlook
With the return of three key performers and a strong cast of newcomers, the Eagles are optimistic heading into the season opener and focused on reaching their goals.
“Our goal is to qualify for the NCAA tournament and compete on a national level,” said Horton, who is assisted by former FGCU player Franco Mata. “Our players are skilled. But we need to be mentally prepared to compete in every match. If we compete to the level of our ability, we have the chance to have a good year.”
To accomplish their goals, the Eagles will look to senior and two-time ITA All-American Richard Stempnowski to lead the way. Stempnowski, who begins his third year at #1 singles, has posted a superb 47-13 mark in singles competition in his career.
“His ability to strike the ball is among the best in the country,” said Horton. “He will be asked to play the best of the best and brings a veteran’s understanding of what’s expected on the court.”
Seniors Jose Pastrello (Limeira, Brazil) and Seth Fogelman (Naples, FL) are a pair of experienced, solid returnees. Pastrello has posted a 14-12 record at FGCU since transferring from Saint Leo and is a strong candidate to move into the No. 2 position. Fogelman has a career mark of 18-4 in dual matches and will solidify the lineup. Sophomore Sean McCann (Sparks, NV) is an untested returnee contending for a spot.
A strong group of newcomers joins the Eagles this year. Two junior transfers, Tim Offerman from Armstrong Atlantic and Juan Carlos Osario, the number one junior college player in California last year, are competing for positions at the top of the lineup. Two years ago, Offerman set the freshman mark for wins at Armstrong Atlantic with 19.
Sophomores Alberto Gutierrez (Bogota, Columbia), who won the back draw of the ITA Southeast Regional last fall, and Jeremy Rudan, along with freshman Chris Caswell (Lakeland, FL) and Gavin Manders (Warwick, Bermuda), who played Davis Cup for Bermuda, are also in the mix for singles and doubles positions.
“I’m pleased with the improvement of our returning players and the level of talent with our newcomers,” said Horton. “We have a deep lineup. Our challenge is to keep our focus through a difficult schedule. We need to beat the teams we are expected to beat and beat a few teams ranked higher for us to be successful.”