MACON, Ga. (Jan. 20, 2011) - The ETSU men's tennis team has been tabbed as favorites to win the Atlantic Sun Conference according to A-Sun head coaches, the league office announced today. In addition, ETSU junior Sander Gille (Kuringen, Belgium) was named A-Sun preseason singles player of the year, while Gille and teammate Jesus Bandres (Caracas, Venezuela) were selected as preseason doubles team of the year.
"I understand that the standard has been raised and it is certainly flattering to receive this nomination, but our players as well as our coaching staff know that this does not mean anything," said ETSU head coach Yaser Zaatini. "The fact is that we have to play it out and it will ultimately come down to the final point in the conference tournament to see who goes to nationals."
The Bucs were picked in the poll just ahead of Stetson, who finished last season just behind the Bucs in the final league standings. ETSU also defeated Stetson in the final of the A-Sun Tournament in 2010. UNF followed in third, USC Upstate was picked fourth, and Campbell rounded out the top-five. Jacksonville, Mercer, Belmont, Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, and Lipscomb completed the poll.
Head coach Yaser Zaatini and the Bucs earned a 16-8 record in 2010, while ETSU earned its fourth straight Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship. The Bucs also picked up their second ever NCAA victory after knocking off No. 32-ranked Alabama.
"Over the past few years we have obviously maintained a high standard of achievement in the conference," added Zaatini. "We don't take anything for granted but have been able to pull it through. There is a lot of parity within the conference because there are potentially up to five teams that can win it all, but we will take this as motivation and we will keep playing tennis like we have a big bull's eye on our back. We will go out and try to defend our blue and gold colors throughout the year."
Gillecapped off an incredible season with the A-Sun Men's Tennis Player of the Year award. Gille finished the 2010 spring season with a 14-6 overall record and a perfect 10-0 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play. In addition, Gille was named the Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP after leading the Bucs to their fourth straight tournament crown.
"Sander being named as a potential player of the year is an incredible individual honor," said Zaatini. "At the same time it is going to be a team effort, because he can win all of his matches and it will only give us one point. So, we need to come through and be able to put a full team effort into action and take it from there, but it is also a great honor to be recognized as an individual at any point."
The doubles team of Gille and Bandres are coming off a 15-6 season, while playing primarily in the number two doubles slot for the Bucs. The duo also finished the season with a five match winning streak.
"Jesus has had the best fall of anyone on the team and is ranked No. 73 in the nation," added Zaatini. "So congratulations to them. They have earned that right and I hope we can prepare them to play solid tennis this spring."
The Bucs recently earned a No. 51 national ranking by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and Bandres was ranked No. 73 in the individual singles rankings.
ETSU gets its season underway on Friday when they travel to Knoxville and take on No. 3 Tennessee for a rematch of last season's NCAA Tournament second round match. The Vols advanced to the NCAA Final last season in which they eventually fell to USC. The match between the Bucs and Vols will get underway at 2 p.m.
2011 A-Sun Men's Tennis Preseason Coaches' Poll
4. USC Upstate
10. Kennesaw State
Men's Singles Player of the Year
Sander Gille, ETSU
Doubles Team of the Year
Sander Gille / Jesus Bandres, ETSU
For more information on ETSU men's tennis please go to ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's tennis link. Also, be sure to follow ETSU Athletics on Facebook and Twitter.