SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's tennis team and Head Coach Chad Berryhill announce the 2017 schedule that features five Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 15-ranked opponents, 11 rematch rivals from 2016 and four new challengers.
"We designed a tough schedule to prepare for conference play, and hopefully NCAA play where the competition is extremely hard-hitting," Berryhill commented. "I wanted to challenge our guys early in the year, so we know where we stand and so we can prepare for playing our best tennis at the end of the year when it matters the most. Our players like a challenge and they will get one early and often."
The Lions open up the season with a three-match homestand. No. 4 Lander comes to town on Feb. 5 for the season opener, and the Lions follow it up with their first Sunshine State Conference opponent in Florida Tech on Feb. 8. On Feb. 12, Saint Leo will host ASA Miami. ASA Miami is the No. 2 team in the nation for Junior Colleges, and while providing a great experience for the Lions, it will be marked as an exhibition match.
Saint Leo then hits the road as they head to No. 3 Armstrong State. Last season, the Lions took down Armstrong State, 7-2, in the regular season, and took them down 5-2 in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals.
"Two key matches will be early in the season with our rematch with Armstrong State, who we played in the National Semifinal last year and our first match against Lander. We also have important conference games against Lynn, Embry-Riddle, and Barry this year, as well as a Rollins team that I think, will be tough as well. It will be a great test for our young team this spring. Each match will prepare and challenge our team and provide invaluable experience to a team that is young and needs as much college match experience as we can get. I am looking forward to seeing how our team responds."
The team then returns home for a four-game stretch against new opponents. The Lions open the stretch with a home match against NAIA foe Saint Thomas on Feb. 24 and follow it up with their first match of March against Valparaiso, a DI challenger, on March 8. Grand Valley State also will take on the Lions in Saint Leo on March 10.
Saint Leo will then take on St. Mary's of Texas in Altamonte Springs, Fla., on March 16. Altamonte Springs is the site of the 2017 NCAA Championships.
On March 22, the Lions will host Eckerd, and on the 25th, they will host No. 10 Embry-Riddle.
The Lions then hit the road for four-straight matches. Their road trip starts with No. 7 Barry on March 26. They then head to Rollins on March 30, and Palm Beach Atlantic on April 1. They close the road swing against Florida Southern on April 8.
The regular season will conclude on April 14 as the Lions host No. 8 Lynn for the final match of the regular season. In 2016, the Lions posted a 2-0 record over the Fighting Knights, taking them down 5-4 in the regular season, and then topping Lynn, 5-0, in the SSC Tournament Championship match to take home the title.
The 2017 SSC Tournament will be held in Bradenton, Fla., and is hosted by Eckerd College on April 20-22.
In the 2016 season, the Lions went 27-2, winning both the SSC Regular Season and Tournament titles. They then went on to finish second in the nation as the NCAA Tournament Runners-Up. However, the Lions graduated three key components in Alex Theiler, Egor Panyushkin, and Guillaume Vanelven. They will look to rebuild and hold on to the No. 2 preseason ranking they were given in the ITA DII National Ranking poll.
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