ELON, N.C. – Making its second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, the Elon University men’s tennis team will travel to Durham, N.C., tomorrow morning, May 10, for a 9 a.m. match with the Tennessee Volunteers in the first round of the tournament.
ELON vs. TENNESSEE: The Phoenix and Volunteers will be meeting for the first time tomorrow. A common thread in the 2014 schedule for Elon and Tennessee is both sides played and beat Duke, the host of the Durham pod. Elon beat Duke to open the season, 4-3, and Tennessee topped the Blue Devils 4-2 on February 7 in Knoxville, Tenn. Elon and Tennessee both also played East Tennessee State, but the Volunteers topped the Buccaneers while Elon fell 4-0 on February 23.
PROGRAM TIES: Though the two sides have never met before, the Phoenix and Volunteers have a very common thread in Elon volunteer assistant coach John Collins. Now a coach, Collins played for the Volunteers and graduated from Tennessee last year. Collins played his first three years of college tennis at the University of Maryland before going to Tennessee for his senior season.
SCOUTING TENNESSEE: The Volunteers enter the match as the No. 2 seed in the Durham pod and are ranked No. 20 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings. This season, Tennessee went 17-10 and dominated at home in Knoxville, posting a 12-3 record. Away from Knoxville, Tennessee went 5-7, including a 1-3 record on a neutral court. The Volunteers finished sixth in the SEC and fell to Ole Miss in their first match of the SEC Tournament.
LOOKING BACK: Last time out on April 19, Elon locked up the Southern Conference Tournament championship with a 4-1 victory over second-seeded Furman. The victory came a week and a half after the Phoenix won the SoCon regular season title for the second time in as many years. The sweep of the SoCon championships marks the first time Elon has accomplished the feat since doing it in 2007.
POSTSEASON AWARDS: The Phoenix cleaned up in the SoCon’s postseason awards announced April 14. Senior Cameron Silverman earned his second straight conference Player of the Year award while head coach Michael Leonard earned Coach of the Year for the second straight season and fifth time in 10 years at Elon. Silverman became the first player to repeat as Player of the Year since College of Charleston’s Or Dekel did it in 2006 and 2007. He’s also the fifth player in conference history to earn the award on multiple occasions. Silverman also earned first-team all-SoCon in singles and doubles. Joining him on the first-team all-conference singles team was Stefan Fortmann, who posted a 15-5 mark this season from the No. 2, 3 and 4 positions. Robert Lindgren, Brian Kowalski and Jordan Kaufman were each selected to the second-team all-conference, which was selected by position. Kaufman joined Silverman on the first-team all-conference doubles quad while Fortmann and Madrid were named to the second-team all-conference doubles side.
SOCON DOMINATION: Elon’s regular season title marked the fifth regular season championship in the last nine years for the Phoenix and the tournament championship was the second for the program, the first of which came in 2007. The perfect 9-0 conference mark is the second time Elon has accomplished the feat, the first time being in 2007 in Leonard’s third season at the helm of the Phoenix. This season, the only match in which Elon did not score six point or more was against Wofford on April 6. In its eight other SoCon matches, Elon won either 6-1 or 7-0. The Phoenix only lost six individual points in regular season conference play this season.
CHASING HISTORY: To date, Silverman has posted 62 career dual singles victories in his four years at Elon. The mark sits five behind the program-record of 64, which was set by former Elon tennis standout Damon Gooch in 2009. With a selection to the NCAA Singles Championship, Silverman has the chance to tie or break the mark by the end of the month. The singles tournament will begin on May 21, the day after the team championship ends.
PHOENIX IN THE POLLS: In the latest ITA national polls released May 1, the Phoenix checked in at No. 51 while Silverman individually sits at No. 36. Since the start of the season, Elon has jumped 13 spots in the rankings. In March, Elon earned a program-best rank of No. 39 in the country.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH: After finishing the season on a 14-match winning streak, Fortmann was rewarded in both March and April by earning SoCon Player of the Month awards. Fortmann has not lost a singles match since February 24 against UNC Wilmington. Since being paired with Juan Madrid at No. 3 doubles, the pair posted a stellar 13-1 mark. In singles and doubles, Fortmann did not lose a SoCon match, going 18-0 throughout the regular season schedule.
SOCON PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: This season, three Elon players were awarded with the SoCon Player of the Week award, as Silverman and Kaufman won once and Fortmann won twice. Silverman was the first player to win the award this year on Feb. 18. Kaufman followed Silverman in winning the award on March 4. Fortmann was named the Player of the Week March 11 after breezing through singles matches against Samford and Davidson, winning each match by a score of 6-2, 6-2. He followed that up with the award a week later on March 18 by winning the award again after staying perfect in all matches played March 10-16. Fortmann earned the award the same day Elon moved to its program-best national ranking of No. 39.
KOWALSKI HONORED: Kowalski became the third Elon athlete throughout the 2013-2014 academic year to be named the Southern Conference Student-Athlete of the Week on Jan. 22. The honor came after Kowalski won the decisive match against No. 7 Duke, one that gave Elon the upset of the Blue Devils on Jan. 17. Nathan Dean of the men’s soccer team, Sam Coffer of the women’s basketball team and Frida Jansaker of the women’s tennis team are Elon’s three other athletes to earn the award.
FRIENDS OF JACLYN: On March 9, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams held Friends of Jaclyn Day at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center to raise awareness for pediatric brain tumors. A week later, a very special guest named Jake Ingham joined the Phoenix family when the 12-year old, signed a contract with the teams. To read the full story about Ingham joining the teams, click HERE.
LOOKING AHEAD: With a win, Elon would move on to face the winner of Duke and Winthrop. Duke is the No. 1 seed in the Durham pod while Winthrop is the No. 4 seed. The match will be played at 12 p.m. after the Elon and Tennessee match. This season, Elon beat both Duke and Winthrop, beating the Blue Devils on January 17 and the Eagles on March 14. Both matches were on the road. Should Elon reach the second round, the match will be held in Durham on Sunday, May 11, at 2 p.m. with a trip to the Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga. on the line.