TROY, Ala. - The 55th-ranked Troy University men’s tennis team received confirmation about their NCAA Tournament bid on Tuesday afternoon, courtesy of ESPNews.
Although the Trojans are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, they will be facing a familiar foe in the opening round. Troy (20-4) is the third seed in the Gainesville region, where they will face second-seeded Auburn (11-12) - a team with whom they have played twice this season (once in the fall and once in the spring).
The two Alabama teams are in the same bracket as Florida (19-4) and South Carolina State (11-10), with the winners of each match playing for the right to advance to the Round of 16.
Troy and Auburn have met once this spring, with the Tigers claiming a 5-2 victory back on February 10 - just two days after the Trojans traveled to another NCAA participant in Ole Miss. In that match, the Trojans won at number four and number six - but a lot things have changed, including the lineup for Troy.
In the previous match against Auburn, Branko Weber played at number two, Xavier Masson at number three and Aurelien Tave at number four. Since that match, Weber has moved to three, Masson to four and Tave up to four.
“I think it was a good draw for us,” Troy’s lone senior Guilherme Sahadi said. “It is always good to get to play someone you are familiar with, and that is how it is with Auburn and us. We have played them twice this season, but we have to forget about that and stay focused on the new task at hand.”
Eric Hayes, named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year earlier in the day, and the rest of the Trojans were able to watch the field unfold on the big screen at Yanni’s Steakhouse on Tuesday afternoon. The unfortunate thing for the Trojans is they had to wait until the final half of the bracket was announced, awaiting the other 56 teams that were announced.
“I wasn’t anxious at all throughout the day,” Hayes said. “That all changed when they started going through the teams and the bracket. I started thinking in the back of my mind on where we could go. I saw Texas go off the board, then Tennessee went, so I started thinking of Georgia and Florida. The funny thing is I told someone earlier today that I thought we were going to play Auburn, and then the bracket came out with them on it.”
Although his team will be playing an in-state team in Gainesville, Hayes believes his team is up for the challenge and will be ready to go after a lengthy break following the conference tournament.
“I like the fact that we are a three seed,” Hayes said. “Auburn is a great team, and a team we haven’t had much success against in the past. I am happy we get to take another crack at them, and we are looking forward to it.”
The remarkable thing about the Trojans run this season is the fact they won 11 matches earlier this season with a very young team.
“This is a different team than we had last year,” Sahadi said. “We are young from top to bottom and that helps during matches. We play well as a team and all get along. The team has been practicing hard since the end of the tournament, and now we can become focused on our next opponent.”
The Trojans and Auburn will get the regional started next Friday, May 14 in Gainesville. A time has yet to be announced.