The East Tennessee State men’s tennis team suddenly has a glaring hole in its lineup.
Rogerio Ribeiro suffered a serious knee injury in a doubles match at the USTA/ITA regional tournament in Knoxville last Friday. Coach Yaser Zaatini said the sophomore from Brazil has a torn medial collateral ligament and will be sidelined for about eight months.
“He was running around a backhand, planted and his knee just buckled,” Zaatini said Wednesday. “We were leading the match 6-2, and Rogerio got up and was walking off the court for a changeover but wasn’t able to make it.
“I feel terrible for him; we all do. He was having a great fall. Without him, it’s going to be a big, uphill climb.”
Ribeiro had been playing No. 1 singles for the Bucs, and playing well. Already this fall, he had defeated fourth-ranked Ryan Lipman of Vanderbilt on his way to the quarterfinals of the Southern Intercollegiate at Athens, Ga., and also had a strong run at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.
He and freshman Diego Nunez have been developing into a formidable doubles team.
“That’s why we are a team,” said Zaatini. “We have to find a way to come together and keep going. We’ll see who steps up.”
One of the candidates is freshman David Biosca.
The Spaniard made it to the quarterfinals of the Knoxville tournament on Monday before losing to Ryan Johnson of Vanderbilt 7-6, 6-2. There were 100 players in the draw at the start.
“He’s a young kid who had never played indoors,” said Zaatini. “He’s a very intelligent player and a fighter. He already has two ranked wins this fall, just doing it through grit and will. And he’s a worker. I gave him two days off and he called me this morning, telling me he wants to practice.”
The Bucs don’t play again until next weekend at the Elon Invitational.
After watching Clinton Freeman’s performance in fall scrimmages, baseball coach Tony Skole has some decisions to make.
Freeman, who has been an all-conference first baseman and led the Bucs in hitting last season, is looking like a dominant pitcher in the making. His future in baseball is likely to be on the mound.
“Clinton Freeman was amazing this fall,” Skole said Wednesday. “He pitched 16 scoreless innings … it was the most dominant performance by a pitcher in my 22 years of fall ball.
“We had a staff meeting this morning and were talking about his role. He’s so good offensively, and he’s good enough to be the Friday night starter in any league, or he could be a heckuva closer. I’m just glad we don’t have to make that decision right now.”
The senior from Jonesborough hit .335 for a championship team last season, with 57 runs batted in and 10 homers. Those were all team highs by plenty.
Freeman also went 7-1 with eight saves and a 3.04 ERA in 25 appearances on the mound. All but three of those came in relief.
“He’s just grown up playing everything – pitching, first base, playing the outfield,” said Skole. “I think he likes it all equally well.”
Skole had 11 newcomers on the field this fall for 28 workouts, and he said it was a pleasant experience. The Bucs finished up with their annual Blue-White World Series on Saturday.
“The weather was wonderful and we got a lot accomplished this fall,” said Skole. “We really have a good mesh between old and new. This team is dynamic and very athletic.
“I think we’ve raised the level of expectations and standards. We just have to work the next five or six weeks on the intangibles – teamwork and leadership – and then be ready to go in the preseason. It’s an important time because we’ve got a lot of young guys.”
One of those who has caught Skole’s eye early is freshman Chris Cook, the former Dobyns-Bennett star.
“If we played today, he’d be our starting third baseman, and he’ll pitch for us some, too,” said Skole. “He hit .474 this fall and didn’t miss a beat.”
The beat goes on for the surging ETSU volleyball team.
The Bucs (13-6) have extended their winning streak to nine matches – the program’s best run since winning 16 straight in 2006 -- and are the only conference unbeaten, at 7-0.
They shut out Florida Gulf Coast, the preseason favorite, at home last Saturday.
Middle blocker Meredith Hardy was named A-Sun player of the week on Monday. The 6-1 junior from Kingsport is the league leader in blocks and has at least one in 81 consecutive matches.
The Bucs now turn their attention to a key road test Friday night at Jacksonville. The Dolphins are 16-2 overall and just a half-game behind them in the standings.
October has been a struggle so far for the women’s soccer team.
The Lady Bucs have lost three of their last four matches to fall to 6-7-1. More importantly, they are seventh in the conference, at 2-3.
Florida Gulf Coast, at 5-0-1, leads the standings, followed by Stetson (4-1-1), Jacksonville (4-1-0) and Mercer (3-1-1).
ETSU will try to get back on track at home this weekend. North Florida visits on Friday night and Jacksonville on Sunday.
Florida Gulf Coast is also the unbeaten frontrunner on the men’s side. The Eagles (4-0-0) lead ETSU and Lipscomb by a game.
The Bucs, who lost 2-1 to Gulf Coast at home last week, are on the road at Jacksonville on Saturday.
Katie Hirko continues her strong runs in cross country.
The sophomore from Oley, Pa., finished 11th out of 169 women at the Greater Louisville Classic to earn weekly honors in the conference.
Hirko was the freshman of the year last fall and a first-team all-conference performer, with four top-10 finishes. Her best showing was third place at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone, N.C., and the ETSU teams will be running there again Friday.
The Bucs were ninth in a field of 31 men’s teams at the Louisville meet, with juniors Filip Jalovy (21st overall) and Adam Chase (33rd) leading the way.