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Kelly Hodge

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Bucs, Ospreys tennis duel on hold

April 2nd, 2014 7:23 pm by Kelly Hodge

Bucs, Ospreys tennis duel on hold

Who has the best men’s tennis team in the Atlantic Sun Conference this spring?

East Tennessee State hung around Jacksonville, Fla., for two days last weekend to try to settle the issue with North Florida. The teams were the only unbeatens in the league, and that’s the way they still stand.

After being rained out late Friday afternoon and again Saturday morning, the match was cancelled and the Bucs headed home with their 4-0 record intact.

“It was 2-2 and we were in a battle,” coach Yaser Zaatini said Wednesday. “We were up a break in one match, up a set and on serve in another, and down 5-1 in another. We just couldn’t beat the rain.”

There’s a good chance the Bucs and Ospreys will tangle for the A-Sun tournament title, again in Jacksonville, in two weeks. Three matches still remain in the regular season — all of them at home, in the Bucs’ case — and everyone else already has at least two losses.

ETSU, of course, has been the team to beat since it first set foot in the A-Sun nine years ago. It has won seven straight tournament championships, losing only three regular-season matches in the process.

One of those came last season against North Florida in the first conference match at the new ETSU Tennis Center, and the Ospreys went on to claim the No. 1 seed for the tournament. (The Bucs ultimately dismissed them 4-2 in the final.) So the stage was set last weekend for a little payback in ETSU’s final go-round in the A-Sun.

“When you fight that hard, and travel that far to settle a score, it’s disappointing when you have to leave it in limbo,” said Zaatini. “For me, every opportunity to compete and measure yourself with foes in the conference is marquee. My guys were really upset they didn’t get to finish.”

The Bucs move on with a six-match win streak that has pushed them to 9-8 overall. They host USC Upstate on Saturday.

Zaatini, ever the motivator, is still looking for consistency throughout his lineup heading into the stretch run.

“I think David (Biosca), Ismael (Merino) and Roger (Ordeig) are all well-established,” he said. “The other three, it depends on the day and the way the sun hits them. They play hard, but you never know what you’re going to get — like Forrest Gump and that box of chocolates.”

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The women’s tennis team may have been wishing for a rainout when it faced North Florida last Friday.

The Lady Bucs were shut out 4-0 in losing their first conference match of the season. They’re now 4-1, and 9-8 overall. The Lady Ospreys (4-0, 11-5) are the only undefeated team.

“The North Florida girls pounded us pretty heavily,” said Zaatini. “We’ve beaten the other top teams. Travis (Sandlant, the women’s coach) is trying to squeeze the most out of this team, but I’m not going to call it overachieving. Given what we’ve got, we’re right about where we need to be.”

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Adrian Meronk left his mark on the Blackthorn Club at The Ridges course.

The 6-6 sophomore from Poland fired a 62 there in a practice round last week, with 10 birdies and no bogeys. Coach Fred Warren said that is the lowest score ever shot on the Bucs’ home course, a shot lower than Rhys Davies’ best round a few years back and two shots lower than the competitive course record of 64.

“Adrian is a very good driver, hits his irons well and can get the putter going,” said Warren. “He shot 62 at Johnson City Country Club last year.”

Meronk has yet to crack the top 10 in a 54-hole tournament for ETSU, though Warren expects that will happen soon.

“Once it happens, I hope it continues to happen,” he said. “I’m hoping he’ll help all of us.”

The Bucs were heading west on Wednesday to prepare for the Mason Rudolph Championship at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin. They’re part of a 14-team field that includes top-ranked Alabama, No. 12 Vandy and No. 20 Florida State.

The Bucs are coming off a second-place finish two weeks ago at the rain-shortened Seahawk Intercollegiate in Wilmington, N.C., and were fourth in the General Hackler Championship the week before that.

“We seem to be making improvement,” said Warren. “We’re kind of on the bubble for regionals but moving in the right direction.”

The Bucs have only one more tournament, the conference championship in two weeks, before the NCAA regionals.

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The volleyball team will host its sixth annual banquet on April 11 inside Brooks Gym.

The event is open to the public at $18 per person. It begins at 6 o’clock.

RSVP to coach Lindsey Devine at devine@etsu.edu or call 439-4259 by Friday.

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