THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2008
Men's tennis looks to make run at the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament

April 16, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The JU men's tennis looks to continue its rebuilding process this weekend as the Dolphins look to make a run in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.

JU (7-12, 5-5 A-Sun) enters the tournament as the No. 4 seed and faces No. 5 seed Gardner-Webb in the first round. The winner will face top-seeded and host East Tennessee State in the semifinals.

"We've played a tough schedule and we weren't one of the deeper teams in the conferece, but we competed in every match," said JU head coach Shane Wood. "The guys felt that they could win every match, especially against some good teams like FAU and USF. We were able to get some wins against some of those teams. With that experience, it will help our confidence as they become juniors and seniors."

The first round matchup is a rematch from an epic 4-3 JU win during the regular season, that boiled down to a hotly contested doubles point.

"The first time we played, we were fortunate to get a 4-3 win at their place," Wood said. "It will be a really exciting first round and our guys are up for the challenge as we have created quite a heated rivalry with them."

The Dolphins are just two years removed from a one-win season and have shown progress in Wood's first season as head coach. Another run in the A-Sun Tournament isn't out of the question after improving in the standings again this year.

"We want to play like we have nothing to lose," Wood said. "We are the No. 4 seed, which is one spot better than last year. I just want us to play tennis the way we know how to play and let the chips fall where they may."

PLAYER PREVIEWS

1. Jordi Ballester: The leader of the squad, Ballester led the squad at the No. 1 position with a 10-8 record, going 5-3 in conference play. A true battler, he racked up a 5-1 record in three set matches. He teamed with Francisco Riveroll to go 11-7 in doubles play. Wood on Ballester: "Jordi is the leader of the team. He is a fighter on the court and played a very tough schedule of matches at No. 1., which proved to himself that he belongs in that role. Every match he played in was close, even the losses, and has made an impression on a national level in my opinion. Going into his senior year, there is going to be a lot expected out of him."

2. Victor Vaz: Vaz faced a tough schedule as he moved up to the No. 2 position, going 9-9 there during the season en route to a 9-11 record. He was 4-6 in conference play, but was 3-1 in three set matches. He enters the tournament having won three of his last four matches. Wood on Vaz:"Victor came into the year after a really good fall season and played No. 2 after playing No. 3 and 4 last year. He had lots of wins and took a big step of playing at a high level. I feel good about next year with the growth he had on the team."

3. Francisco Riveroll: Enters the tournament having won three of his last four matches in singles and doubles play. Combined record is 11-9 in singles play, going 11-7 in the No. 3 position. One of the top doubles player on the team, he has teamed with Ballester to form a formidable team at the No. 1 position. Wood on Riveroll:"Francisco had a good record at No. 3. He is by far our best doubles player. He shows leadership on the court and has a great fighting spirit, which has led him to become one of the guys that we could count on to give our guys some confidence going into the other matches. I can't say it enough, he is amazing in doubles."

4. Marcos Oliveira: A member of the one-win team two years ago, Oliveira continues to improve each season and has been a very valuable and versatile member of the team this season. He has played matches at the No. 3 and 4 positions after playing No. 6 a year ago. Despite a 5-15 record, he has played tight matches, going 5-13 at the No. 4 position. Wood on Oliveira:"Marcos had to move up to No. 4 from No. 5 or 6 last season. He took some lumps, but he is a fiery competitor that has stepped up against some tough competition. He plays hard every point and is one of our emotional leaders. Marcos is just a guy you love to have out there because he gives you all that he has."

5. Alberto Lopez: A young freshman that has battled in making the transition to Division I after getting a late start on the season. Wood on Lopez:"Alberto got here late in January and is still getting accustomed to the college game. He has played well in spurts and has some nice physical tools - solid serve and forehand. He has integrated well into the team. He's just got to develop a little more consistency."

6. Vinny Craveiro: Another versatile player, Craveiro has played Nos. 4, 5 and 6 for the Dolphins this season. His play at No. 6 has been solid, going 2-2 this season. He teamed with Oliveira to 6-10 in the No. 3 doubles position. Wood on Craveiro:"Vinny is the hardest worker on the team and works harder than anybody in practice. He's had to struggle through nagging injuries and hasn't missed much time. He won a couple of really close singles matches that has clinched wins for us, which is due to him improving 100 percent since the beginning of the season and is still working hard to get better."