@FGCU_MTEN Opens 2014 Season With Major Competition
Friday, January 17, 2014 | by Sara Roberts (@Saraannerob)
Senior Gabe Echeverry (photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson
Senior Gabe Echeverry (photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Riding the momentum built during its fall tour, the FGCU men’s tennis team looks to keep it going as it opens the 2014 season this weekend with matches against No. 36 Florida State and No. 60 Nebraska in Florida’s capital city. The Eagles will face FSU on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Indoor Tennis Facility on campus and return Sunday at 1:00 p.m. to battle Nebraska at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center.

“We couldn’t be more excited to start our spring campaign with this weekend,” head coach C.J. Weber said. “We will be incredibly challenged against Florida State and Nebraska but are looking forward to a weekend of great competition.”

The No. 36 Seminoles enter Saturday morning’s contest sitting at 4-0 on the season after three shutouts over Furman, Mercer and No. 71 North Florida, and a 5-2 defeat of South Alabama last weekend. FGCU started 2013 with a dual match against the Noles, but injuries in the lineup led it to a 7-0 defeat. While FSU’s talent is undeniable, fans learned this fall season that the Eagles are capable of putting points on the Noles, a challenge their Atlantic Sun rivals failed to complete. In October’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southeast Regional, Jordi Vives (Barcelona, Spain/IES Ferran Tallada/USC) took down FSU’s Jose Garcia in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, in the round of 32.

No. 60 Nebraska opens the spring season this weekend in Tallahassee. The Huskers ended the 2013 season with a 10-15 overall record and were 2-9 in Big Ten Conference play. They secured the 10th seed in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament but ended their season with a loss to seventh-seeded Michigan State in the first round.

After compiling a 14-2 record during the fall season, No. 66 Vives continued to help the Eagles make history as he gave FGCU representation in the ITA national rankings for the first time. Of Vives’ 14 fall wins, two were over opponents also ranked, including No. 52 Jason Tahir of Duke, who Vives defeated 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals of the Dick Vitale Invite, and No. 119 Zack McCourt of Princeton, who Vives downed 6-4, 6-1, in the finals.

Of the teams they will face this weekend only one other player joins Vives in the national singles rankings: No. 61 Benjamin Lock from FSU.

Entering his final season with the Green and Blue, senior Dean Tsamas (Lexington, Ky./Henry Clay HS) is just 14 wins away from becoming the winningest player in FGCU program history. With a team-high 53 total singles wins, Tsamas is already the most victorious player in FGCU’s D-I history. After registering a conference-leading 15 singles wins during the 2013 season, Tsamas can very well use the 21 guaranteed matches of 2014 to crown him the program frontrunner. Sitting at the top of the all-time leaderboard is former Eagle Richard Stempnowski, who totaled 67 D-II wins from 2002-05.  

Over the course of five tournaments the Green and Blue collected a total of 58 match wins and four tournament titles. Senior Gabriel Echeverry (Popayan, Colombia/Gimnasio Calibio) was crowned champion of the white singles draw at the Georgia Southern Championships. On his way to becoming the last man standing, Echeverry outscored his opponents 49 games to 24, playing a total of nine sets over the four matches. Juniors Vives and Tianyu Bao (Tianjin, China/Bayshore HS) united to clinch the doubles draw of the FGCU Fall Invite, before Vives continued on to take home the singles title. Highlighting their tournament wins was Vives victory of the Dick Vitale Invite where he beat ranked players from Virginia, Duke, Minnesota and Princeton to secure the top spot.

The Eagles will return to The Nest on Jan. 24 as they host SMU at 5:00 PM. For complete coverage of FGCU men’s tennis over the weekend, follow us on Twitter @FGCU_MTEN and visit www.FGCUAthletics.com where full recaps and results will be available at the end of each day.