#3 Saint Leo men's tennis heads to SSC Tourney as #2 Seed
Apr 19, 2017
SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's tennis team is headed to the Sunshine State Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed and will take on Florida Tech at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 20 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Against Florida Tech: The Lions played Florida Tech in the second match of the season back on Feb. 8 when the Lions took the match, 8-1 (RECAP). Saint Leo is 8-4 against Florida Tech in the last 10 season, but are on an eight-match winning streak against the Panthers.
Regular Season Breakdown: The Saint Leo men's tennis team went 11-3 in the regular season with their three losses coming to then-ranked No. 3 Armstrong State (6-3), DI Valparaiso (5-2), and No. 2 Barry (9-0). The Lions earned wins over nine top 50 opponents, including wins over then-ranked No. 4 Lander (5-4), No. 10 Embry-Riddle (6-3), and No. 8 Lynn (5-4).
Coach Chad Berryhill's remarks on the season: "Overall the season has been going well for Men's Tennis. Like any team, we have had our highs and lows. We have worked on becoming a better 'team' and are starting to play some of our better tennis at the right time. I am happy with where our team is both mentally and physically going into the SSC Tournament this coming weekend. The highlights for our spring came in our first match and our last match when we were able to pull out 5-4 wins over No. 4 Lander and No. 8 Lynn. The match with Lynn was extra special as senior Oskar Nurmio was able to clinch the match on his Senior Day. Also, the team had statement wins against No. 10 Embry-Riddle (6-3) and No. 22 St. Mary's (8-1). The guys have been able to step up in big moments all season."
SSC Breakdown: In 2017, the Lions went 6-1 in the Sunshine State Conference to finish in second place. Barry finished as the regular season champions with a 7-0 record, while Lynn finished third (5-2), four was Rollins (4-3), Florida Southern in fifth (3-4), Palm Beach Atlantic in sixth (2-5), Florida Tech in seventh (1-6), and Eckerd in eighth (0-7). Six of the eight teams will also enter the SSC Tournament ranked in the top 50 in the nation in the ITA Rankings. Barry rolled in at No. 2, while the Lions are No. 3, and Lynn holds the No. 8 ranking to round out those in the top 10. Rollins, Florida Southern, and Florida Tech fell in at No. 28, 38, and 48, respectively. Embry-Riddle, who is a provisional member in the SSC, also ranks in the top 10, claiming the No. 10 spot.
Coach Berryhill's thoughts on the strength of the SSC: "The strength of our conference is very strong. We have four teams ranked in the top 10 in the country, and seven out of eight teams at the conference tournament have a national ranking. The strong competition makes every match important and helps overall with national rankings and NCAA region rankings. It is a conference where you have to play your best at all times because there are plenty of teams that have the capability of beating each other on any given day."
Things to keep an eye: Saint Leo is the reigning SSC Tournament Champions after claiming their first title in 2016. The Lions return three contributors from the title-winning line-up. Junior Jaime Bueno, who play No. 2 doubles and No. 4 singles in the 2016 Tournament, played all of 2017 at No. 3 singles and had split his time at No. 2 and 3 doubles. He finished the regular season 11-0 in his singles matches. The Lions also return Oskar Nurmio and Francisco Aparicio. The duo pair to be the Lions No. 3 doubles pair last season. This year, the duo has recently played at No. 2 doubles, and both have seen time in the singles line-up. Fans also will want to keep an eye on the Lions' No. 1 and No. 2. Thomas Grinberg and Vincent Suillerot have had successful rookie seasons and have paired together to play No. 1 doubles as well.
What to watch according to Coach Berryhill: "Fans should know that we have a team with players from eight different countries from around the world. Our top two players [Grinberg and Suillerot], both from France, came to Saint Leo as friends and have the opportunity to compete together here at Saint Leo together. Also if you are a tennis enthusiast who likes one-handed backhands, we have three players on our team with one-handers which is rare for college tennis. Also, all of our coaches have one-handers as well. Our top three players this year have been exceptionally strong, only dropping four matches the entire spring combined."
Closing thoughts by Coach Berryhill: "The most difficult transition I had entering this season was just getting used to each player and working on instilling a culture within our team. Overall I think the guys have been buying in. We have had some difficulty establishing a doubles line-up early in the season, but we were able to find some chemistry with the three teams we have now. The team was very receptive to making changing to make sure we would have good doubles team, especially since we are very confident with our singles line-up."
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