ANDERSON, S.C. – Coming off a co-regular season South Atlantic Conference championship in 2013, Anderson University men’s tennis prepares for its 2014 schedule, released Thursday by head coach Joey Eskridge.
The Trojans will partake in eight home contests this season, including a rematch with the team they shared the regular season championship with, Tusculum, on Feb. 23. AU also conducts home matches with second-place finisher Lincoln Memorial and non-conference opponents USC Aiken and Columbus State.
Despite having those highly anticipate contests, Anderson opens up with its toughest match of the season at Clemson on Feb. 2. Last season, the Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division I Tournament, when CU eventually fell to No. 6 ranked Tennessee, 4-3.
“It’s going to be exciting to have the guys play on that kind of stage,” Eskridge said. “Clemson is a completely different atmosphere from which our guys are used to playing in. I hope our guys learn from the experience to prepare them for our conference schedule.”
After squaring off with a Division I power, the Trojans return home to open SAC play with Newberry on Feb. 8. Anderson narrowly got by the Wolves a year ago, grabbing a 5-4 road victory.
With its first conference match under its belt, AU begins a long road trip which begins on Feb. 12 at GRU-Augusta, formerly Augusta State. Anderson was blanked for just the second time against the Jaguars a season ago, falling 5-0.
AU jumps back quickly into SAC play with an away contest at Catawba on Feb. 15, followed by a meeting at Lander to close the three-match road swing. Anderson defeated the Indians 7-2 in last season’s matchup, as Catawba closed the 2013 campaign with a 12-10 overall record.
After a home match with USC Aiken on Feb. 19, the Trojans get into the heart of conference play with five-straight SAC battles, beginning with a road contest with SAC newcomer Coker on Feb. 22. As members of Conference Carolinas last season, the Cobras knocked off AU 6-3 in Anderson’s season opener.
Following the rematch with Coker, the Black and Gold return to the Upstate for three consecutive home conference matches, beginning with one of the top matches within the conference. Anderson welcomes Tusculum on Feb. 23, as both team went 8-1 in league play last season, sharing the regular season championships. AU handed the Pioneers their lone loss from last season with a narrow 5-4 victory.
Anderson continues conference play with Mars Hill on March 1, following by another key matchup with Lincoln Memorial on March 3. The Trojans fell short against LMU during the regular season and in AU’s first match of the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament, as the Railsplitters eliminated the Trojans 5-3. LMU was the lone member of the conference to defeat the Trojans last season and eventually went on to win the tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re looking to get some redemption against Lincoln Memorial this season,” Eskridge said. “They’ve gotten us the last two seasons and this match will be a good one.”
The conference schedule continues on March 6, when AU travels to Wingate. The Bulldogs advanced to the championship match last season against LMU in sought of their second straight conference tournament title, but was cut down by the Railsplitters, 5-4.
Anderson returns to its non-conference slate to host Columbus State on March 7. CSU advanced to the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference tournament, but was eliminated by eventual champions Armstrong Atlantic State, which advanced to the NCAA Division II National Championship match.
After taking some time away for Spring Break, the Trojans hit the courts once again to host Brevard in SAC action on March 20. AU took a 6-3 win against the Tornados last season and has not lost to BC since joining the SAC in 2010.
As Anderson heads into the final stretch of the season, two of the final three SAC matchups are on the road, beginning with back-to-back road trips to Queens on March 25 and Lenoir-Rhyne on April 1. Queens, which begins its first season in SAC, closed 2013 with a 9-6 overall record and a 6-4 mark in Conference Carolinas.
Eskridge’s team gets its shot at the Beville Cup point on April 9 when AU heads to Due West to face Erskine. The Trojans came away with a hard-fought 6-3 win over the Flying Fleet in last year’s meeting, as returners Inaki Iriberry and Paul Michael Calhoun each notched wins in singles play.
AU closes outs its regular season with a its final SAC match of the season against Carson-Newman on April 11 and a non-conference meeting with Belmont Abbey on April 12. Anderson picked up wins against both teams last season, highlighted by 7-2 victory at C-N.
“The schedule is tough,” Eskridge said. “There aren’t any easy matches and since we aren’t playing a full schedule, we can possibly get our players fresh for the conference tournament.”
The SAC Tournament gets underway on April 18 and runs through April 20 at the Rock Hill Tennis Center in Rock Hill, S.C.