NEW ORLEANS – For the second consecutive season, Denver’s men and FIU’s women are the No. 1 seeds heading into this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tennis Championships.
The tournaments, held at the University of South Alabama, are set to take place at the Mobile Tennis Center and the University of South Alabama campus on April 21-24 in Mobile, Ala.
Denver (9-12, 4-0) earned the top seed as the highest ranked men’s team (No. 72) in the league, according to the most recent ITA rankings and will have a first round bye. The Pioneers are led by sophomore Enej Bonin, who is the highest ranked men’s singles player in the league at No. 65 with an 11-6 record on the year. Denver seeks its first title since joining the SBC in 1999.
Also looking for their first championship, Florida Atlantic earned the No. 2 seed with the best overall record (11-9) in the league. Senior Marc Abdelnour leads the Owls heading into the tournament ranked No. 120. Abdelnour stands 26-6, including a 17-3 mark at the No. 1 singles position. He is the school’s career record holder in singles and total victories. He also ranks in the top five in every other statistical category.
Tournament host South Alabama (7-8) rounds out the top three, entering the tournament with 16 SBC Tournament titles, the most of any other program in the league. Leading the Jaguars are senior Lucas Viel, and juniors Romain Bocaert and Dauw Kruger. Kruger is 11-4 in his spring campaign and is undefeated at No. 5 singles, along with currently holding a seven-match win streak. Viel and Bocaert partner up to form the No. 44-ranked doubles tandem. The pair went undefeated in dual matches this season and holds an 8-2 overall record.
Rounding out the rest of the pool are Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Lafayette, defending SBC champion Troy and Western Kentucky.
FIU (10-6, 6-0) earned the top seed in the women’s tournament with the best team ranking in the league (No. 63) and earned a first-round bye.
The Panthers are followed by No. 2 seed ULM, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State to round out the top four, all of which also earned a first-round bye.
FIU is looking to claim its fifth conference title in the last seven years. The Panthers have made the tournament finals each of the last six years, including last seasons’ 4-3 loss to North Texas in New Orleans. All-time the Panthers have made the finals 10 out of the team’s 12 total appearances in the SBC Championship, holding a 28-8 record since 1999. The Panthers are led by senior Liset Brito, who comes into this year’s tournament with a 12-4 singles record, having won nine of her last 10 matches. She is currently ranked No. 57 by the ITA, the highest ranked women’s singles player in the conference. Brito and teammate Rita Masiak form the No. 72-ranked doubles pair.
ULM enters the tournament on a tear, having won 17 straight matches – the second longest win streak in the nation. Led by two-time Academic All-American Claire Clark, the Warhawks’ 18 wins this season have come by a combined 105-19 scoring margin (5.8-1.1). Clark is 18-0 this season in singles and a remarkable 56-2 over the past three spring seasons.
Rounding out the rest of the tournament pool for the women is Florida Atlantic at No. 5, followed by defending SBC Champion North Texas, Troy, Denver Middle Tennessee, UALR, South Alabama and Western Kentucky.
The women’s championship will begin on Thursday, April 21 at 9 a.m., as No. 9 Middle Tennessee and No. 8 Denver will battle along with No. 12 Western Kentucky vs. No. 5 Florida Atlantic, No. 10 UALR vs. No. 7 Troy, and No. 11 South Alabama vs. No. 6 North Texas.
Men’s action will also begin on Thursday with three men’s matches at 2 p.m. No. 2 Florida Atlantic faces No. 7 Western Kentucky along with No. 3 South Alabama vs. No. 6 Troy and No. 4 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 5 Louisiana-Lafayette.
Men’s Team Seeds
2. Florida Atlantic
3. South Alabama
4. Middle Tennessee
7. Western Kentucky
Women’s Team Seeds
4. Arkansas State
5. Florida Atlantic
6. North Texas
9. Middle Tennessee
11. South Alabama
12. Western Kentucky
THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2011
No. 9 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 8 Denver
No. 12 Western Kentucky vs. No. 5 Florida Atlantic
No. 10 UALR vs. No. 7 Troy
No. 11 South Alabama vs. No. 6 North Texas
No. 2 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 7 Western Kentucky
No. 3 South Alabama vs. No. 6 Troy
No. 4 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 5 Louisiana-Lafayette
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2011
No. 1 FIU vs. Match 1 Winner
No. 4 Arkansas State vs. Match 2 Winner
No. 2 ULM vs. Match 3 Winner
No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Match 4 Winner
Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner
No. 1 Denver vs. Match 3 Winner
SATURDAY, APRIL 23, 2011
Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner
Match 7 Winner vs. Match 8 Winner
MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Match 4 Winner vs. Match 5 Winner
SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2011
WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Match 9 Winner vs. Match 10 Winner