One Win Away: 2012 Men's Tennis Season Review
In 2012, the UWF men’s tennis team reached the finals of the NCAA Championships for the fourth time. With a runners’ up showing, the Argos capped a season in which UWF won its ninth Gulf South Conference championship and hosted NCAA South Regional #1. For the Argos, in a sport that highlights the individual player, it was all about the team to make the season a success.
" I was very pleased with the performance of both teams this year,” said UWF men’s and women’s tennis head coach Derrick Racine. “We practiced very hard to prepare for each match, and it really showed in our performance. I felt neither team had a let down at any point in the season."
The Argos were listed as the No. 7 team in the nation in the preseason edition of the Campbell’s/ITA College Tennis Rankings. UWF sophomore Bruno Savi (Santana do Livramento, Brazil) was listed as the No. 10 singles player. Also in singles, Leandro Ferreira (Sao Paulo, Brazil) was listed at No. 16 and Andrey Pozhidaev (Sochi, Russia) came in at No. 19. Domenico Sano (Macaray, Venezuela) was receiving votes in singles. In doubles, Ferreira and Savi were tied for sixth nationally. Pozhidaev and Sano were listed as the No. 17 doubles tandem in the nation.
West Florida opened its spring 2012 season at home against NAIA powerhouse Auburn Montgomery. The Argos tallied their first home victory of the season with a 7-2 win over AUM. In their first road match of the season, UWF recorded an 8-1 victory over No. 23 Florida Southern on Feb. 9th. The Argos’ only regular season loss to a Division II opponent came on Feb. 25th, as No. 3-ranked Armstrong blanked UWF, 9-0, in a neutral site match in Columbus, Ga. The Argos rebounded the following day and defeated No. 9 Columbus State, 5-4.
On Feb. 29th and with a 3-1 record, the Argos remained No. 7 in the nation. That same day, UWF defeated another top 10 opponent, defeating No. 10 Lander, 7-2, in Pensacola. West Florida opened Gulf South Conference (GSC) play with four matches in four days starting on March 8th. During this time span, the Argos defeated Christian Brothers (9-0), West Alabama (8-1), North Alabama (8-1) and Alabama-Huntsville (9-0). The Argos were now 8-1 overall and 4-0 in GSC play.
UWF’s March 16th match against No 30 Midwestern State was slated to open a string of seven matches in just an eight-day time span. The Argos defeated Midwestern State, 7-2. The following day, UWF fell to Ole Miss, 0-4. At the time, Ole Miss was the No. 15 team in NCAA Division I tennis, while UWF was the No. 7 team in NCAA Division II tennis. The loss would be UWF’s last of the regular season. On March 19th, the Argos left the friendly confines of the Ralph “Skeeter” Carson Tennis Complex on the UWF campus to take on three tough regional opponents on the road. No. 7-ranked UWF tallied a 5-4 victory over No. 2-ranked Barry on March 19th. The following day, the Argos picked up a 5-4 victory over No. 5 Lynn. To cap off the trip, UWF traveled to Winter Park and defeated No. 8 Rollins, 6-3. UWF’s matches against No. 20 Drury and Division I Nicholls State on March 23rd in Pensacola were cancelled due to rain.
UWF returned to the courts on March 27th and blanked No. 14 Georgia State and College, 9-0. Having defeated numerous ranked opponents, including the Nos. 2, 5 and 8 teams in the nation, the Argos moved up to No. 2 in the March 28th edition of the Campbell’s/ITA College Tennis Rankings.
Up next for the Argos was conference foe and defending national champion Valdosta State. The Argos defeated No.5-ranked Valdosta, 8-1, and moved to 5-0 in GSC play. The following day, the Argos recorded a 5-1 victory over No. 7 Concordia (N.Y.). On April 1st, the Argos continued their winning streak in conference play, tallying a 5-0 win over No. 38 Delta State. UWF closed out its home portion of the regular season with a 7-2 win over No. 19 UC San Diego and an 8-1 victory over No. 14 Hawaii Pacific. In its final regular season match, The Argos defeated No. 31 New Orleans, 7-2. The match had been rescheduled multiple times throughout the season due to weather. The Argos ended the regular season with a 21-2 overall record and were riding a 12-match winning streak.
With a perfect 7-0 regular season conference record, the Argos received the No. 1 seed in the GSC Men’s Tennis Championships. A bye in the quarterfinals for UWF had the Argos face off with No. 38 Delta State in the semifinals of the tournament. The Argos quickly disposed of Delta State, defeating the Statesmen, 5-0. The win set up a rematch with defending national champion Valdosta State. In the finals of the GSC Men’s Tennis Championships, the No. 2-ranked Argos defeated No. 5-ranked Valdosta State, 5-1. It was the first time that UWF had won a GSC men’s tennis championship by defeating the defending national champion. The win gave UWF its ninth GSC men’s tennis championship.
The Argos were selected as the No. 1 seed in the South Region and were chosen to host NCAA South Regional #1. No. 8 seeded West Alabama, which defeated No. 9 seed Fort Valley State to advance in the tournament, was up first for the Argos. A conference foe, the Argos had defeated the Tigers earlier in the regular season. In the semifinals match, the Argos defeated West Alabama, 5-0. UWF advanced to the finals to face No. 6-ranked and No. 4-seeded Rollins. Playing at home, the Argos punched their ticket to Louisville, Ky., and the NCAA Championships with a 5-1 win over Rollins.
Having captured the GSC Championship and NCAA South Regional #1, the Argos, who had won their last 16 matches, traveled to Louisville, Ky., for the national tournament portion of the NCAA Championships. It was the first time since 2008 that the Argos had advanced through regional play and into the national tournament. Up first for the Argos was No. 42 Nebraska-Kearney. In the Round of 16, the Argos downed Nebraska-Kearney, 5-0, moving West Florida on to the quarterfinals. In a match were Kevin Ducros (Aix-en-Provence, France) and Pozhidaev recorded simultaneous match points, the Argos defeated No. 12 Ouachita Baptist, 6-1, to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships. On May 18th, the Argos blanked Augusta State, 5-0, and advanced to play for the national championship.
The Argos were slated to face No. 1 Armstrong for the national title. Early in the spring season, Armstrong had handed the Argos their only regular season loss to a Division II opponent. Now, UWF was riding a 19-match winning streak and the Pirates were 29-0. Armstrong took all three doubles matches. With a 3-0 lead going into singles, Armstrong won all six first sets in singles. The Argos battled back, but were unable to overcome the deficit. Armstrong finished the season a perfect 30-0 as the Pirates topped the Argos, 5-0.
West Florida finished the year as the national runners’ up and the No. 2 team in the nation. The Argos were also the No. 1 team in the South Region. The GSC champions’ year ended with a 28-3 overall record.
"The men played a lot of tight matches and won almost every one of them. We captured our first GSC Championship defeating last years NCCA champion,” stated Racine. “In the NCAA Championships, we finished national runners up, losing to a very good team. We never let down and fought hard till the end of every match. It's a long season and to not have one bad match is really amazing. This was a very talented group of individuals that played even better as a team."
In 2012, Racine was named the Wilson/ITA Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year. Racine also received the honor in 2003 and 2005. He was named the South Region Coach of the Year, for the sixth time in his coaching career at UWF, and the GSC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach of the Year. It was the sixth time that Racine has been named the GSC Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year.
Accolades abounded for Savi. In his first year as an Argonaut, he was named the ITA South Region Player to Watch. He garnered ITA Division II All-American honors in singles as he finished the year as the No. 11 singles player in the nation. In the final regional rankings, he was listed as the No. 5 singles player in the South Region. With Ducros, he was listed as the No. 2 doubles tandem in the nation and the South Region in the final rankings and was named an ITA Division II All-American in doubles. On a conference level, Savi was named the GSC Player of the Year and was a member of the All-GSC Men’s Tennis Team.
Ducros, who medically redshirted last spring due to a knee injury, bounced back from the injury to receive ITA All-America honors in singles and doubles. Ducros finished the year as the No. 7 singles player in the nation and was listed as the No. 4 player in the South Region. In doubles, he teamed with Savi and finished the season as the No. 2 doubles team in the nation and South Region. He was named to the All-GSC Men’s Tennis Team for the third time. Ducros was also named to the GSC Academic Honor Roll.
In 2012, Pozhidaev became just the third Argonaut to be named to the All-GSC Men’s Tennis First Team four times. He finished the season as the No. 21 singles player in the nation and the No. 10 player in the South Region. In doubles, he teamed with Ferreira. The duo was ranked No. 23 nationally and No. 8 regionally in the final Campbell’s/ITA College Tennis Rankings. He also named to the GSC Academic Honor Roll.
West Florida freshman Elio Latela (Sydney, Australia) was named to the All-GSC Men’s Tennis Team after going 6-0 in regular season conference singles play. Latela finished the year with an overall 18-1 singles record. In the final South Region rankings, he was listed as the T-20th singles player in the region. Latela was also named to the GSC Academic Honor Roll.
Sean Gunnels (Mobile, Ala.) capped his career at UWF by being named to the GSC Top Ten. The GSC Top Ten is a list of 10 student-athletes across all sports in the GSC that are recognized for their athletic, academic and extracurricular achievements. He was also named to the GSC All-Academic Team and the GSC Academic Honor Roll. At the UWF Student-Athlete Banquet, he received the Student-Athlete Leadership Award and the Kenneth L. Curtis Award, which is given to a male student-athlete for significant contributions, sustained leadership and service to the UWF campus life.
Several other Argos received honors for their efforts in the classroom. UWF senior Mike Lue (Richmond Hill, Ontario) and Sano were named to the GSC All-Academic Team and to the GSC Honor Roll. Guilherme Canineo (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Mallory Leighty (Lake City) and Roberto Mattos (Jaú, Brazil) were also named to the GSC Honor Roll. For information on all UWF Athletics, visit www.GoArgos.com.
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