ELON, N.C. –Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, the Elon University men's tennis team earned a No. 3 seed and will take on No. 2 Tennessee in the first round on Saturday, May 10, at 9 a.m. in Durham, N.C.
"It's exciting for our team to get back to the NCAA Tournament," said Elon head coachMichael Leonard. "We're excited to go to Durham and we're excited to take on Tennessee in the first round."
The Phoenix, the 54th-ranked team in the country, reached the NCAA Tournament by way of winning the Southern Conference Tournament championship on Saturday, April 19, in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a 4-1 victory over the second-seeded Furman Paladins. With three wins in the tournament, Elon stretched its record against SoCon opponents to 12-0 this season. That marks the second perfect conference season for the Phoenix, the first of which came in 2007.
In its one previous NCAA Tournament appearance, Elon lost 4-0 to the Clemson Tigers on May 11, 2007. That year, Elon went 9-0 throughout the regular season in SoCon play, then topped College of Charleston in the SoCon Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Overall, their record for the season was 23-3 and finished with a then-program record No. 44 ranking in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings.
This season, Elon reached a new program-best mark of No. 39 in the ITA national rankings while going 19-4 this season. The Phoenix also took home a conference-high nine postseason awards, including the SoCon Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. Cameron Silverman earned the Player of the Year honor for the second season in a row, becoming the first player to do so since 2006 and 2007 when Or Dekel of College of Charleston won in back-to-back year. Leonard earned the award for the fifth time since coming to Elon in 2005.
Entering the tournament, Silverman has 62 wins in his career at Elon. That mark puts him two from tying the program's all-time best of 64, which was set by former standout Damon Gooch in 2009. Silverman should have a chance to at least tie Gooch's record, as the senior could be in line for a bid to the 64-player singles tournament, which will be announced tomorrow, April 30.
Since joining Division I in 2000, Elon has never played Tennessee. The Volunteers, ranked No. 20 in the country, enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the pod hosted by top-seeded Duke. Winthrop is the No. 4 seed in the pod, taking on the Blue Devils at 12 p.m. after the Elon/Tennessee match. Tennessee went 17-10 this season and earned the six-seed in the SEC Tournament, but the Volunteers were upset by 11th-seeded Ole Miss in the second round of the tournament. John Collins, Elon's volunteer assistant coach this season, played for the Volunteers and graduated from Tennessee last year.
With a victory, Elon will move on to face the winner of the Duke/Winthrop match on Sunday, May 11, at 2 p.m. in Durham. Elon has defeated both Duke and Winthrop this season. The Phoenix topped then-No. 7 Duke to open the season on January 17, then beat Winthrop on March 14 in Rock Hill, S.C. Both matches were tight 4-3 victories in Elon's favor.