JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 18, 2005) - Who says no one's perfect, the East Tennessee State University men's tennis team has now disproved that saying two years in a row by recording back-to-back undefeated Southern Conference Regular Season Championship and Tournament Championship Titles (2004 and 2005) on a winning streak of 26 matches against Southern Conference opponents. Winning the SoCon tournament gave the Buccaneers an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, their fourth in the history of Buccaneer men's tennis and second under the leadership of Head Coach Yaser Zaatini in his third year at ETSU.
Overall, the Bucs posted a record of 20-4, which included a stretch of 18 wins, which ended against No. 14 Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Knoxville, Tenn.
Fall tournament action was a strong indicator that the Bucs would continue the success from the 2003-04 season. Sophomore Oscar Posada (Valencia, Venezuela) became the first Buccaneer to compete in the main draw of an ITA national tournament since Gustavo Gomez in 2000, when he won three qualifying matches to advance to the main draw of the Icy/Hot ITA All-American Tournament. Posada won his first match of the main draw against No. 14 Alex Slovic from the University of Washington, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5), but then fell to No. 60 John Isner, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4.
Additionally, the Buccaneers saw strength from fellow sophomore Felix Insaurralde (Ascunción, Paraguay) who in the fall fell one match shy of the qualifying round at the Icy/Hot ITA All-American Tournament and won the flight two finals match against Andrew Eklov of No. 2 Illinois, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, at the UNLV Fall Invitational.
During the regular season, the Bucs faced two ranked opponents early on playing competitively and learning from those matches' elements, which could be used in their future competitions. With that knowledge and the high level of skillful players, the Buccaneers quickly found their grove beginning with a 5-2 road win against Yale.
The first SoCon opponent that the Bucs faced in 2005 was rival College of Charleston, who they defeated by a score of 6-1. The Bucs went on to win every other SoCon match for their perfect 10-0 record, the SoCon Regular Season Title and the No. 1 seed in the SoCon Championship.
The Bucs continued to shine in tournament competition as they defeated ninth-seeded Appalachian State 4-0 and fourth-seeded The Citadel 4-1 to advance to the finals of the tournament. In the finals, the Bucs faced No. 7 UNC Greensboro who had upset the second-seeded Furman Paladins to advance. The Bucs remained focused taking their match against the Spartans 4-0 for the Southern Conference Tournament Title and the NCAA automatic berth.
When the Bucs learned that their first-round NCAA opponent would be Tennessee, they were prepared for what they would face as over the years the two teams had become interstate rivals and the Bucs knew what to expect. However, weather forced the match inside and ETSU fell in a hard-fought match despite the final 4-0 outcome.
In addition to the team's accomplishments, several individual awards were also presented to team members for their outstanding performance throughout the season.
At the SoCon banquet, East Tennessee State picked up the SoCon men's player and coach of the year honors. Posada earned the Player of the Year honor with a perfect 10-0 record at No. 1 singles in conference matches, and finished the season 25-8 overall. He was named as the 2004 Freshman of the Year and finished the season ranked 70th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association national rankings. The Bucs head coach Yaser Zaatini was tabbed the Coach of the Year by his peers after leading his team to its third-straight regular season title and eighth since ETSU joined the SoCon in 1978.
All six members of ETSU's line-up received accolades as All-Conference Selections. Posada and Insaurralde were named as First Team All-SoCon singles selections, while the pair of Posada and team captain Fernando Fiuri (Villa Maria, Argentina) was named as a doubles selection. Second Team All-SoCon selections included at singles Fiuri, Lisandro Picardo (Mar del Plata, Argentina) and Luis Sebastian Serrano (Cartagena, Colombia). At doubles, the teams of Insaurralde and Picardo along with the brother duo of L. S. Serrano and Moisés Serrano (Cartagena, Colombia) were named to the second team.
Posada and Insaurralde also earned additional recognition from the Southern Conference during the season. Posada was named as a SoCon player of the week, TIAA-CREF student-athlete of the week and March athlete of the Month, while Insaurralde was also named as a SoCon player of the week, earned April athlete of the month honors, and was named as the SoCon Tournament MVP for winning all three of his singles matches at the No. 2 slot during the conference tournament.
The Bucs now await the start of the 2005-06 season where they look to being strong contenders in their new conference the Atlantic Sun and proving themselves against new opponents to gain another opportunity at competing in the NCAA tournament and continue the improvement of the ETSU men's tennis program.