Wesleyan Draws Shepherd in NCAA First Round
"We are pleased and excited to be headed back to the NCAA tournement again," said head coach Marc Walters, who will be taking his third different school to the men's event. "The guys have had to deal with some adversity this year in the way of injuries, academic loads, and working with a new coach and system. But they have improved each week of the season, and we are getting sharper each time out on the court, so we feel good about our chances and our draw."
The 'Cats are familiar with Shepherd (16-10), their first round opponent, having beaten them 6-3 on March 30th in Buckhannon. In that match, Wesleyan took two of three doubles, and four of the six singles matches to claim the win. Shepherd received the at-large bid largely on a solid non-conference record and their 4th place finish at the WVIAC tournament this past weekend.
According to Walters, the West Virginia Athletic Conference is reaping the rewards of a solid year against other regional conferences.
"Our conference had a strong showing this past season, and the WVIAC teams really stepped up against the CIAA and the PSAC when we had the chance to see them. Getting four teams into the regionals is great, and we probably could have made an arguement for one more with the depth we saw in the WVIAC this year."
The Bobcats, who have now made the NCAA field the past nine seasons, made it to the Sweet 16 in both 2006 and 2009 by winning regional titles. Current Wesleyan seniors Javier Yim Kim and Eduards Gusevs were also members of the 2009 team, while all but one player in the lineup for the 'Cats has prior NCAA experience. Walters has also coached in the NCAAs six other times while at DII schools Nebraska-Kearney and Barton College, so he has also been battle tested on this stage.
"We have a veteran bunch, and that can be very helpful when there is so much on the line on each match," Waters said. "We like our draw, and know the courts and town well, so that is also a big plus in getting prepared for this environment. I expect us to play like a team that has been there before, and leave nothing out there when we play this weekend."