Tallahassee, FL - The Florida State men’s tennis team starts the 2011 season in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday at the Illini Open. The No. 27 Seminoles will compete against No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 16 Illinois. Play will continue through Saturday at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club. Florida State kicks off one of their toughest schedules to date facing 20 teams ranked by the ITA. with possibly 12 matches against top 25 opponents.
“I think 2011 is going to be the hardest schedule we’ve ever had,” said head coach Dwayne Hultquist. “I think the challenge is what we’re going to be doing with playing so many teams that are top 10 and having all these home matches. I think just a great home schedule is what excites me the most.”
Individually, Florida State has two student-athletes ranked in singles with senior Clint Bowles (Tampa, Fla.) leading the way at No. 37 (No. 6 in the Southeast Region). Bowles finished the 2009-10 season with a 26-12 record. During the fall he had a five-match win streak and reached the finals of the ITA Southeast Regional.
Senior Vahid Mirzadeh (Wellington, Fla.) opens the season ranked No. 42 after going 5-3 in the fall. Mirzadeh had his best season last year going 20-6 in singles while going 2-0 against top 10 opponents. Mirzadeh is ranked No. 7 in the Southeast Region.
“The expectations for this season are we want to win,” said Mirzadeh. “It’s plain and simple, last year we all thought we didn’t do as well as we wanted to. So this year we’re on a mission to try to reverse the losses we thought we should have won and get them this time.”
The Seminoles also feature sophomores Connor Smith (Tampa, Fla.), Anderson Reed (Daphne, Ala.), Jordan Kelly-Houston (Christchurch, New Zealand) and Andres Bucaro (Guatemala City, Guatemala). Last season they played a pivotal role on the team playing every match in the 4-6 spots.
“I really feel like from your freshman and sophomore year, you have your biggest jump as far as your ability,” said Hultquist. “I look for those guys to win a lot of matches this year and be more comfortable with playing and more consistent. I think their games have all improved, so I’m looking forward to what the sophomores will bring this season.”
Freshman Blake Davis (Austin, Texas) will make an immediate impact on the team in the line-up and Tallahassee-native Owen Long comes back for his junior year.
This season the Seminoles face 24 teams with 20 of those opponents ranked by the ITA in the top 75. Depending on the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, 12 of those 24 matches could be against teams ranked in the top 25. The home season starts Tuesday, January 18 when No. 62 Troy visits the Scott Speicher Tennis Center at 2:00 p.m.
The ACC has a history of being one of the toughest conferences and this year is no different with 11 of the 12 teams ranked in the top 75. Florida State’s conference schedule features five home matches featuring No. 1 Virginia, No. 24 Virginia Tech, No. 44 Miami, No. 75 Maryland and Boston College. FSU travels to No. 14 Duke, No. 20 North Carolina, No. 22 Wake Forest, No. 23 Georgia Tech, No. 53 Clemson and No. 57 NC State.
The ‘Noles non-conference schedule features home matches against No. 2 USC, No. 5 Texas, No. 9 Florida and hosts the Seminole Quad featuring No. 41 Nebraska, Florida Atlantic and Furman. The ‘Noles travel to face No. 2 USC and South Florida and will compete against No. 28 Fresno State at the ITA Kick-Off at UCLA to face the winner of the No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 33 Minnesota match.