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Can the ETSU tennis win is 11th consecutive conference championship?

Joe Avento • Updated Apr 20, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Can the East Tennessee State University men’s tennis team make it 11 in a row?

We’ll find out this weekend.

The Bucs will be trying to continue an amazing streak when the Southern Conference tournament begins Friday on the campus of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. They’ve won 10 consecutive conference championships. That run includes the past two SoCon tournaments and eight Atlantic Sun Conference titles.

And they’re favored to do it again.

ETSU swept through the regular season, winning all seven of its matches against SoCon opponents to earn the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Bucs open with No. 8 Chattanooga at 9 a.m.

Host school Furman figures to give ETSU the most trouble. ETSU beat the Paladins 5-2 in Johnson City on April 2. That was Furman’s only conference loss.

It all comes during a tumultuous season in which head coach Yaser Zaatini resigned in mid-March. His assistant coach, Ricky Rojas, took over and was picked as the league’s coach of the year for keeping the Bucs on the winning track.

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Meanwhile, the ETSU women will try to defend their SoCon championship when their tournament opens Friday at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

ETSU is the second seed after going 6-1 in the SoCon. Furman is the top seed after taking a 5-2 decision in the two teams’ meeting in Greenville.

The Bucs take on seventh-seeded Wofford in the first round Friday at 1 p.m.

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The SoCon men’s and women’s golf tournaments are set to begin Sunday and run through Tuesday. The men are playing in Pinehurst, North Carolina, at the No. 9 course, while the women’s tourney is being held at Lexington (South Carolina) Country Club.

The Bucs are the defending men’s champions, having edged UNC Greensboro by one stroke last year. It was their record 19th SoCon championship.

ETSU senior Mateusz Gradecki enters the tournament second in the SoCon in stroke average at 71.69 strokes per round.

For the women, ETSU’s Loy Hee Ying leads the conference in stroke average at 72.15. She’s won two of her last four tournaments.

Furman is the defending women’s champion. The Paladins won by 14 strokes last year.

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The baseball team has shown it can play with teams from the bigger conferences, having beaten Tennessee and Virginia Tech over the past two weeks. Now the Bucs get back into the SoCon schedule hoping to continue that momentum.

The Bucs find themselves in last place at 2-7, and the early conference schedule wasn’t kind to them. The three series they’ve played so far have come against the top three teams in the league.

ETSU (19-15 overall) starts a three-game series at Furman on Friday at 6 p.m. The Paladins are 4-8 in the conference, 15-20 overall.

Christian Bailey, a junior first baseman from Kingsport, is hitting .403 for the Bucs. That ranks second in the conferece behind UNCG’s Caleb Webster, who is third in the country at .436.

Th Bucs also get another shot at the Vols on Tuesday when they meet at Smokies Stadium in Sevierville.

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The ETSU softball team is only a game out of first place in the SoCon. The Bucs are 6-3 in the conference, tied with UNCG, just behind league-leading Furman.

A nice combination of hitting and pitching has gotten the Bucs in contention. They’re second in the conference in hitting at .285 and second in pitching with a team ERA of 3.34.

When it comes to power, no trio in the conference is better than ETSU’s Danielle Knoetze, Taylor Carter and Tiffany Laughren. They’ve combined for 49 extra base hits and hold three of the top four spots in slugging percentage. Knoetze leads the conference at .683.

ETSU plays at Western Carolina in a three-game series this weekend.

A showdown is looming with Furman, which comes to ETSU for a three-game series April 28-29.

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The postseason banquet for the men’s basketball team is open to the public. The event is scheduled for Tuesday at the Gordon Ball Practice Court.

It starts at 6 p.m. and will feature the unveiling of the team’s championship banners for the recent SoCon regular-season and tournament championships.

Tickets, whch include dinner, are $30 and be bought by contacting Jo Anne Paty at (423) 439-4738.

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The track & field teams head to Atlanta this weekend for the Georgia Tech Invitational. It’s the second year the Bucs have competed in the event, which will serve as one of the final tuneups for the conference championships.

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