March 23, 2009

Upstate Set For Matches With Major Conference Implications

March 23, 2009

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SPARTANBURG, S.C - With three Atlantic Sun Conference matches for each the USC Upstate men's tennis and women's tennis programs, this week's action on the courts will go a long way to deciding whether the tennis programs will have a chance at grabbing A-Sun titles in 2009.

The road won't be easy for either team, as the Upstate men will face both Jacksonville and North Florida, who each have 4-2 conference records, at home this weekend along with road trips to Kennesaw State and non-conference rival Presbyterian. Of course, if the Spartans, who have won 14 straight, get through the week unscathed, they will tie the school record for consecutive wins at 18.

The women's team will face three conference teams with winning records, starting first with 2-1 Kennesaw State on Tuesday before taking on 4-2 Jacksonville, who was predicted to finish third and ahead of Upstate in the Preseason Coaches' Poll, and 6-0 North Florida, who currently leads the A-Sun. They wrap up the week with two non-conference matches against UAB and South Alabama.

Still Rolling
The Spartan men's tennis team won its 14th straight match on Saturday with its 4-3 win over Campbell. The 14-match winning streak is the third-longest in school history, just one behind the mark of 15 straight wins set by the 2007 Spartans in their last year of Division II play. The school-record is 18 straight matches, set by the 2003 Peach Belt regular-season champions, coached by current assistant coach Tami Matheny and assisted by current head coach Alessandro De Marzo.

Rank And File
Riding a 10-match winning streak, the USC Upstate men's tennis team climbed into the latest ITA NCAA Division I Men's Team rankings, entering the poll at No. 72, marking the first time in the DI era that the Spartans have earned mention in the poll. The Spartans ended their Division II era in 2007, finishing the season ranked fifth in the final ITA DII rankings. In addition, freshman Ramiro Blanco, thanks to a 16-match winning streak, entered the national rankings at No. 110 and the doubles pair of freshman Edgar Rodriguez and junior Jack Roux entered the rankings at No. 64 thanks to a perfect 11-0 record.

Staying Strong
Seniors Anna Novo and Daniela Lovera have started their Atlantic Sun Conference season right where they left off after the 2008 A-Sun regular season championship. Novo, who was a perfect 11-0 at No. 1 singles en route to being named the A-Sun Player of the Year in 2008, has extended her A-Sun winning streak to 15 matches thanks to a 4-0 start this season. Lovera, who was a perfect 9-0 at both No. 3 and No. 4 singles, has stayed perfect this season, moving her A-Sun winning streak to 13 matches thanks to her 4-0 mark this season.

Looking For A Record
Juniors Javier Tori and Jack Roux won their 50th career singles matches one day a part from each other, as Tori became the fifth player in school history to reach the mark with his win at No. 3 singles against Drake on March 17 and Roux reached the mark with his win at No. 4 singles against UMKC on March 18. Now both are tied four fourth in school history with 52 wins, just five shy of the school-record of 57 set by Jorge Ventura from 1993-96.

Lucky No. 7
Just two weeks after junior Javier Tori and senior Leandro Osorio became the fifth and sixth players in school history to reach 100 career combined (singles and doubles) wins, junior Renzo Airaldi became No. 7 on March 19 in Upstate's win over No. 71 UNC Wilmington. Airaldi, a 2007 NCAA Division II Doubles All-American, has won 59 doubles matches in his career and 43 singles matches, giving him 102 career wins after a doubles win on March 21 at Campbell. The Peruvian, who plays at the top of Upstate's singles and doubles lineups, is just one win away from becoming the fourth player in school history to reach 60 career doubles wins.

Alessandro's Antics
Now in his fifth year as head coach, Alessandro De Marzo has built the Spartan men's and women's tennis programs into a regional power, as he has amassed a 82-26 record with the men's program and school-record 72-26 mark with the women's team. His 154 career wins is just four behind the school record of 157 career wins with the tennis programs set by Alan Ferguson, who coached the men to a school-record 119 wins from 1988-97 and the women to 40 wins from 1991-97.

Up Next
Another critical week awaits as the USC Upstate tennis teams push to stay near the top of the A-Sun standings. The men's and women's tennis teams will hit the road to face Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson for A-Sun matchups on Thursday and Saturday.