Saturday, April 16, 2011

Zaatini Brings Two Teams to Championship Saturday

In eight years leading the ETSU men’s tennis team, head coach Yaser Zaatini established the Buccaneer program as one of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top dynasties across all sports. The Buccaneers own four regular-season championships and four tournament titles in six years in the A-Sun. With Friday night’s win against Campbell, they will go for a fifth tournament title Saturday against Stetson.

In July, his title changed to Director of Tennis at ETSU – a title that meant direct oversight of the ETSU women. Under other head coaches, the Lady Bucs put together a run in the A-Sun that closely mirrors the men, winning two titles, appearing in all five previous finals and claiming at least a share of four regular-season crowns.

Like the men, the Lady Buccaneers advanced to the Saturday’s title-game tilt. They took out the host Stetson and will take on UNF in a rematch of last year’s final, one won by the Ospreys. In just his first year at the helm for both teams, Zaatini became just the second coach in league history to be the head coach of both a school’s men’s and women’s program that made the respective title games. Pat Breen guided Samford to the finals in both tournaments in 1992.

“I didn’t get them both in the finals, they got themselves there,” Zaatini said. “I’m extremely proud of the way the players have performed throughout the year, and all the work that goes into it.”

Holding responsibilities for both teams means Zaatini has to put behind the tough defeats and refocus his coaching on his other team.

“The hardest thing is on the heart and the mind to come back after an emotional victory or a sad defeat and do it all over again,” Zaatini said. “But it’s my job, I love it, I love my school and I just hope we keep doing the best we can.”

When Breen got Samford to the finals in both sports in 1992, the team enjoyed mixed success. The men finished atop the tournament standings but the women took second to FIU. Zaatini isn’t ready to speculate how it might feel to leave DeLand, Fla., as the coach of two champions.

“I don’t want to think that far ahead,” Zaatini said. “Obviously, it would be a great accomplishment for the university, but tomorrow we’re facing huge challenges and great obstacles, and it’s just going to be tough. I can’t tell you right now where we’re going to get the four points. We’re just going to show up tomorrow, let the balls roll and hope it falls our way.”

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