Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dominance Dinged

In case you missed it, one of the Atlantic Sun’s most dominating regular season runs came to an end last week.

Tennis appears to be on an uptick in the A-Sun with the top of both the men’s and women’s standings, boasting nationally ranked programs and gaudy records.

USC Upstate snapped ETSU’s 38-match conference win streak with a thrilling 4-3 victory in Johnson City. The Bucs completed unblemished runs through the regular season every year since the introduction of the round-robin schedule in 2007. The team’s only loss to this point was one of the most stunning upsets in A-Sun tennis history when fourth-seeded Belmont rolled past top-seeded ETSU 4-2 in the semifinals of the 2006 championship.

Only two teams in the past decade can even make an argument to be considered as dominant as the ETSU netters and neither had to contend with those pesky regular season schedules. In women’s track & field, UCF won eight of nine championships stretching from 1997 to 2005 while the Jacksonville women have won five straight indoor titles to go with four consecutive outdoor trophies. In sports with regular season play, only two teams boast runs that could over-shadow ETSU. From 1993-98, the UCF volleyball team won 55 consecutive A-Sun matches including four straight postseason titles. During that same stretch (1993-96), the FIU women’s hoops team went 54-2 in the regular season and won three out of four tournaments.

Needless to say, this could be a program-defining win for the Spartans.

"We've been waiting for this match since last year," said UCS Upstate head coach Alessandro De Marzo, who became the second coach in school history to reach 100 career wins with the victory. "They showed a lot of courage. I'm too excited."

The program can reflect on a long history of success at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels, but in three years with the A-Sun, had yet to clear its biggest obstacle until that day.

On the other hand, the well-established Bucs will move on.

“Records and streaks eventually come to an end and that’s simply what happened today,” ETSU head coach Yaser Zaatini said. “I was extremely proud that this program didn’t lose a regular season match for so long but the bottom line is that we are out here just playing tennis. It’s not life or death. These kids work so hard and I’m heartbroken that it’s over, but now our team has a chance to start a new one tomorrow.”

The one ingredient missing from the burgeoning rivalry is postseason showdowns. That will have to wait two more years as the Spartans complete their re-classification process to Division I. Until then, we’ll have to enjoy those matches in March.

Who do you think will win the 2010 A-Sun Men's Tennis Tournament?

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