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Tennis teams picked to finish 11th in preseason polls

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

MACON, Ga. - The 2009 Atlantic Sun Tennis Championships return to the campus of ETSU in April, and the league’s coaches predict both the men's and women's trophies will remain in Johnson City at the conclusion of the tournament. The two-time defending champion men’s squad and the 2006 champion women’s squad were selected to win both the regular season and tournament titles in a poll by the league’s head coaches the conference office announced on Wednesday.

The ETSU men’s squad brings a 25-match regular-season conference winning streak into the 2009 season. In three seasons in the Atlantic Sun, ETSU’s only loss to a conference opponent came to Belmont in the semifinals of the 2006 A-Sun Championships. Since that tournament loss, the Bucs have won their last six tournament matches by 4-0 counts.

“It’s a huge accomplishment and honor for our team to be picked as the preseason favorite,” ETSU head coach Yaser Zaatini said. “There are many teams in this league that could win a championship this year. Hopefully, this will give our guys some confidence as we move forward. With the A-Sun having so many great coaches in it, every team has to bring it to the courts day-in and day-out in order to take home a championship.”

Stetson, the tournament runner-up in each of the last three seasons nabbed four first place votes to take second in the poll, while Campbell, UNF and USC Upstate rounded out the top five.

On the women’s side, the Lady Bucs collected five first-place votes to narrowly edge out Stetson by a single point. ETSU, a tournament finalist in each of its three Atlantic Sun seasons, hopes to reclaim the A-Sun Championship after falling to Jacksonville in the finals each of the past two seasons.

“It is an honor to have our team selected as preseason A-Sun regular season and tournament champions,” ETSU head coach Steve Brooks said. “There are a lot of good teams in this conference. Although we are picked to win – there are probably five or six teams who could win the regular season this year.”

Second-place Stetson aims to unseat the Lady Bucs after seeing its last three seasons end at their hands; the past two years in the semifinal round. Two-time defending tournament champion Jacksonville notched 96 points for a third-place projection, while defending regular season champion USC Upstate tallied 92 to finish fourth. The Spartans finished their first Atlantic Sun season with a perfect 11-0 mark. UNF rounded out the top five with 72 points.

The coaches also selected a pair of ETSU players as preseason Players of the Year with defending A-Sun Player of the Year and Tournament MVP Enrique Olivares winning the honor on the men’s side and junior Yevgeniya Stupak earning the award for the women.

Olivares started the fall season ranked No. 31 in the country, and put together an outstanding fall campaign, which included going 15-3 in singles play. In his final tournament of the fall the 2008 All-American outlasted 24 of the top ITA singles players at the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va. Also during the fall campaign Olivares took top honors at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens, Ga., defeating preseason fourth-ranked Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky in the finals. Olivares opens the spring schedule as the ninth-ranked singles player in the country.

“This is a big honor for Enrique to be named Preseason Player of the Year,” Zaatini said. “He’s such a hard-working player and after the fall season he had and I know he’s one of the best players in the A-Sun and country. It’s been so fun watching and coaching him. He’s one of the best tennis players I’ve coached, but more importantly he’s a great student and leader for our young team.”

Stupak started the season ranked No. 63 in the nation, and finished off the fall with a 12-3 record and three tournament titles. The two-time First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree took home the title at the UNC-Chapel Hill/Kitty Harrison Invitational, defeating defending A-Sun Player of Year Anna Novo 6-1, 6-1 en route to the title. She opens the spring season ranked 15th in the Southeast Region.

“It is great for Yevgeniya (Stupak) to be selected by the other coaches as preseason Player of the Year,” Brooks said. “She is has worked hard and is very talented. She has the potential to become one of the best players ever to represent the A-Sun in both the NCAA National Tournament and NCAA rankings.”

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

2008-09 A-Sun Preseason Men's Poll
# School (1st Place Vote) Points
1. ETSU (7) 116
2. Stetson (4) 112
3. Campbell 88
4. USC Upstate 79
5. North Florida 77
6. Jacksonville 67
7. Belmont 59
8. FGCU 53
9. Mercer 39
10. Kennesaw State 27
11. Lipscomb 18

Tournament Champion: ETSU

Player of the Year: Enrique Olivares (ETSU)

2008-09 A-Sun Preseason Women's Poll
# School (1st Place Vote) Points
1. ETSU (5) 110
2. Stetson (4) 109
3. Jacksonville 96
4. USC Upstate (2) 92
5. North Florida 72
6. Campbell 63
7. Kennesaw State 47
8. FGCU 46
9. Belmont 44
10. Mercer 28
11. Lipscomb 18

Tournament Champion: ETSU

Player of the Year: Yevgeniya Stupak (ETSU)