Wingate plays Mount Olive in NCAA first rounder Sunday
Savannah, Ga.----The Wingate University men’s tennis team hopes to establish another first Sunday, as they face Mount Olive College in the first round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional at Bacon Park. Both the number eight seed Bulldogs (18-6 overall) and the number nine seed Trojans (18-6 overall) will be looking for their first NCAA men’s tennis post-season victory Sunday.
“Our seniors have helped us establish many firsts,” Wingate head coach Michael Cabana says. “We would love to add an NCAA tournament victory to their list of accomplishments.”
Wingate won the Food Lion SAC tournament for the first time in school history Saturday, April 21 with its 5-1 championship match triumph over Lincoln Memorial at the Rock Hill Tennis Center. Wingate senior Drew Owen (Kitchener, Ontario) was named the tournament MVP. Classmates Matt Lichtenstein (Darnestown, Md.) and Flavio Rathsam (Sao Paulo, Brazil) join Owen on the 2012 All-SAC teams.
The Bulldogs are 0-3 in their NCAA tournament history, as Wingate hopes the fourth time is the charm. Wingate’s three seniors have NCAA experience, as they helped the Bulldogs qualify as freshmen in 2009. Wingate also punched a ticket to the NCAA dance in 2000 and 2002. During the school’s junior college days, Wingate won the NJCAA national championship in 1970 and 1971.
Owen leads the 2012 team in singles victories with 17. He has a 16-3 ledger at the number two position. Owen will play number two doubles with his four-year teammate Lichtenstein. The duo has a 6-3 worksheet this spring. Lichtenstein is 10-2 in singles this year; the Capital One Academic All-America® candidate is 7-0 overall at his current number three slot.
Rathsam has a 57-16 overall singles record during his Bulldog career. He is 11-10 overall this year, with an 8-8 mark at the always-tough number one flight. Rathsam and freshman Neal Towlson (Warwick, Bermuda) will play number one doubles at the NCAA event. The pair is 8-5 this season at the top spot. Rathsam has posted 13 doubles victories this year.
Towlson joins his three senior teammates on the 2012 All-SAC squad. He did not lose a SAC singles match (regular season or tournament) this year, posting a 10-0 record against league opponents. Towlson is 15-7 overall in singles, with seven wins at number four and six victories at his current number five spot.
Bulldog sophomore Ryan Forbes (Charlotte, N.C.) and freshman Diego Martinez (Queretaro, Mexico) will play number three doubles for the Bulldogs. Forbes leads Wingate with his 16 doubles victories this year, while Martinez is next with his 15 triumphs. Together, the Forbes/Martinez pairing is 11-2 overall at the number three flight. They recorded a team-best 7-1 ledger in conference play.
Mount Olive shares many similarities with Wingate. The Trojans won the Conference Carolinas tournament championship for the first time in school history with a 5-4 championship match victory over Limestone Saturday, April 21. Wingate also defeated Limestone 5-4 during the regular season (Feb. 11, 2012). Mount Olive is making its first-ever NCAA appearance, compared to Wingate’s four NCAA trips.
The two teams have nine common opponents. Both teams share 5-4 victories over Limestone. The LC Saints edged Mount Olive 5-4 in the regular season (April 7). Both squads have victories over Erskine, Lenoir-Rhyne, Pfeiffer, Brevard, Mars Hill and Coker. North Georgia defeated both Wingate and Mount Olive. The Francis Marion Patriots earned an 8-1 victory over Mount Olive (Feb. 2), while the Bulldogs edged FMU 5-4 (March 20).
“Mount Olive is a tough team,” Cabana says. “They have played similar teams with virtually the same results. I believe this will be a great match.”
The Wingate-Mount Olive winner will face the top-ranked and undefeated Armstrong Pirates (24-0 overall) Monday at 2 p.m. in one regional semi-final match. The other semi-final match pits number four seed Georgia College (11-8 overall) against number five seed Francis Marion (10-6 overall) in a Peach Belt clash Monday (2 p.m. first serve).
The regional championship match is slated for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Armstrong Atlantic State is hosting one of two NCAA Division II Southeast Regional men’s tennis venues. Columbus State University is hosting a four-team event in Columbus, Ga. The host CSU Cougars defeated North Georgia and Augusta State upset Lander in Saturday’s opening matches in Columbus.
The winner of both Southeast Regional title tilts will earn berths in the NCAA Division II men’s tennis national championship finals. The 16-team event will be held at the Top Gun Tennis Academy in Louisville, Ky. May 16-19 as a part of the 2012 NCAA D-II Spring Championship Festival.