LCSC tennis teams open national tournament play on Tuesday
MOBILE, Ala. – The Lewis-Clark State College women’s team has been using its first-round loss at last year’s NAIA National Tournament as motivation for this season. That motivation jumps a level today when the Warriors open tournament play against the school that knocked them off in the opening round last year, Indiana Wesleyan.
The two teams collide at 11 a.m. this morning when the eight opening-round matches are played at the Mobile Tennis Center.
The Warrior men also kick off national tournament play at 7 a.m. today when LCSC takes on Berry College of Georgia, also at the Mobile Tennis Center.
Each tournament consists of 24 teams and the top eight seeds received first-round byes. The top eight seeds don’t jump into action until Wednesday.
This is the 13 straight year and 16th overall the LCSC women have qualified for nationals, while the men’s squad has made it 10 straight years and 19 overall.
Like the women, the Warrior men’s squad also is using last season as motivation, but in a different way. The Warrior men won their opening round match last season for the first time in a few years and have been trying to build on that success this season.
The Warrior men are ranked No. 20 in the NAIA, while Berry is No. 15. Both have unimpressive records as Berry is 6-5 overall, while LCSC is 9-11. Records for both teams, however, are misleading. Berry has played a tough regional schedule that includes five other teams ranked in the NAIA Top 25 and in the tournament. LCSC has played a number of NCAA Division I-II schools this season as well as some of the top NAIA teams from California.
The Warrior men have been hit by injuries throughout the season and the playing status of a couple of players won't be known until prior to the match.
The Vikings finished second in the Southern States Athletic Conference and lost to Lee in the semifinals of the conference tournament on April 24 in its last outing. LCSC’s last match was a 9-0 win over College of Idaho on April 25. The Warriors finished the season strong with five wins in their final six matches.
The winner of the LCSC-Berry match will face No. 2 seed Embry-Riddle of Florida on Wednesday at 7 a.m. in the round of 16. California schools hold five of the top eight seeds, while the South holds the final top three seeds, including top-ranked and three-time defending champion Auburn Montgomery. Last year, LCSC fell to Auburn Montgomery 6-0 in the second round at nationals.
The Warrior women lost to Indiana Wesleyan 5-4 last season when it lost two singles matches in three sets. It was the first time that the Warrior women lost in the first round at the tournament.
"The one thing I know is this is a very nice opportunity to remove that bitter taste from last year," LCSC coach Kai Fong said. "It should be a tough match, but we are very motivated."
LCSC lost only one senior from last year's squad and has played well at the end of the season by winning six of its final eight matches.
Like the men, the women's lineup won't be decided until the start of the match. Senior Shefat Baishakhi has missed the last month with an injury, but Fong expects her to be in the doubles lineup on Tuesday and possibly in singles play.
The Warrior women are ranked No. 20 in the final NAIA poll with an 11-11 record, while Indiana-Wesleyan, despite a 23-2 record, is only ranked No. 16. The Wildcats actually won their first 23 matches and then took part in the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament where it lost to Olivet Nazarene in pool play and then Dallas Baptist in the tournament’s semifinals.
During the regular season, the Wildcats had only three matches decided by 7-2 wins. The rest were either 8-1 or 9-0 triumphs.
The winner of Tuesday’s match faces a tough battle on Wednesday against top-ranked Auburn Montgomery. AUM has won five straight national titles and 10 overall.