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FMU tennis set for season-opening PTR Cup

FMU tennis set for season-opening PTR Cup

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis teams will open their 2024 seasons Saturday at the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) Collegiate Cup.

The two-day event will be played at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla.







JAY EVANS.JPG

Evans


The FMU women will play fifth-ranked Saint Leo University at 9 a.m., while the Patriot men will face third-ranked Saint Leo at 12 p.m. Georgia College and Tusculum University are the other two schools playing in the event. The Georgia College women are ranked 16th and the Tusculum women’s squad is among other schools receiving votes.

The championship matches will be played later on Saturday at 3 p.m., with the consolation match is set for Sunday at 9 a.m.

Under third-year coach Jay Evans, the FMU men’s team returns seven lettermen from last season’s 13-8 squad that claimed first place in Conference Carolinas regular season and appeared in the conference tournament title match. The Patriots ended the year ranked 42th in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) College Tennis national poll.

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The Patriots have been picked to finish second according to the 2024 Conference Carolinas Coaches’ Preseason poll.

The returning men’s players include seniors Leonel Gonzalez and Adam Ernberg; juniors Martin Barbera, Harri Lloyd-Evans, Luis Lopez Sarasa, and Austin Vienna; and sophomore Niklas Plath.

Newcomers include sophomore transfer sophomore Pedro Caro (New Jersey City University) and freshmen Ethan Byrd (Florence Christian School), Rodrigo Cunha (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Florian Glaser (Jena, Germany), Carlson Lim (Auckland, New Zealand), Alexander Mirkov (Auckland, New Zealand), and Ben Scott (Johannesburg, South Africa).

“It is not often that you can lose the Conference Player of the Year from last season, and feel as good or better the following year, but I do,” Evans stated. “This is my third year and I have been watching this core group go from a young squad to a very experienced team. They are ready to repeat as regular-season champions and take the next step in advancing.

“Martin is ready to step up and fill the void at the No.1 singles position, and to be a candidate for Player of the Year honors. He will now team with Leonel as the No.1 doubles squad.” Both players were All-Conference selections last season.

Evans, the 2023 conference men’s tennis Coach of the Year, went on to say, “One of the strengths of this team will be our depth, and that has fostered a competitive atmosphere in practice. If we need to make a change in our line-up, it will not be a drop off. All 14 players have the right attitude and the team is having fun. The fact that the young players are so hungry could be a major factor for us in 2024.”

Barbera went 16-5 playing at No. 2 and 3 singles last year. Lloyd-Evans, 10-10 in 2023, is expected to fill the No. 2 singles spot, followed by Gonzalez (11-7), Lopez Sarasa (9-7), Scott, and Mirkov. Caro and Lim could also see time in the starting ladder.

Behind Barbera and Gonzalez in the doubles line-up will be Lopez Sarasa and Vienna at No. 2 and Scott and Lloyd-Evans at No. 3, with the duo of Mirkov and Caro also expected to see some action during the year.

“We will be tested early in this opening event, and then later in February we will host Augusta University (receiving votes) and 13th-ranked Lander University,” Evans said. “The schedule is set up where we could make some noise regionally and even nationally. I am happy where we are three years in, but the ceiling is higher still.”

Evans welcomes back six letterwinners from last season’s 10-11 squad that placed seventh during the regular season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

The Patriots were picked fourth in the 2024 coaches’ preseason poll.

The returnees include fifth-year senior Gabriel Karatantcheva (35-18 career singles mark), graduate student Julie Martincova, senior Julia Bellini Fernandes Pinto, juniors Sophia Hansen and Kim Venghaus, and sophomore Chelsea Seidewitz.

Both Karatantcheva and Seidewitz were All-Conference selections in 2023, while Karatantcheva was also named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year presented by Hudl for the sport of women’s tennis. Karatantcheva posted an 11-8 mark at No.1 singles, while Seidewitz registered a 14-3 record mainly at No. 2 singles.

This year’s roster will also include three freshmen and a transfer. Sophomore Lian Timmermans comes to FMU after one season at Western New Mexico University, and she will be joined by freshmen Katelyn Fennell (Hannah-Pamplico High School), Polina Gontaryk (Brovary, Ukraine), and Mia Koepf (Bissingen and der Teck, Germany).

“Returning basically the entire starting line-up from 2023, we are very experienced,” Evans said. “Gabriel is very excited for her final season and with her and Chelsea at the top of the line-up, they could be the best 1-2 punch in the conference.

“Julie also returns for her fifth year of collegiate tennis, and Kim is playing with an improved confidence and style. Polina is a huge addition to our squad. She is hard-working and could be one of the top freshmen in the conference. Despite her being only 17 years old, she is a very mature player on the court.

“Julia and Sophia will also battle for a starting spot in a line-up that is solid from top to bottom.”

In doubles play, Evans said the likely line-up would have Karatantcheva and Venghaus playing No. 1, followed by Seidewitz and Gontaryk at No. 2 and some combination of Martincova, Hansen, and Pinto at No. 3

“The keys to success for the women’s squad is doubles play, depth, and meshing and playing as a team,” Evans said. “With Gabriel and Chelsea at the top of singles, if we win the doubles point, that will make it difficult for teams to beat us. We also need to grow as a unit and support each other. The seniors are committed to making this season the best it can be. If we can accomplish these things, battling for the conference title is a realistic goal.”

The men’s squad has an 18-match schedule, which includes ten home matches on the Kassab Courts. The women’s team will also face an 18-match schedule that lists nine home contests.

The 2024 Conference Carolinas Men’s and Women’s Tournament is set for April 26-28 at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter.