HUNTINGTON -- West Virginia Wesleyan's tennis team will learn it's opponent and site on Tuesday, April 25 when dates and times are announced on the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship selection show.
The women's show airs at 8 p.m. ET (show here: http://www.ncaa.com/live/player?vid=2017/3043&date=2017/04/25)
The men's show airs at 8:30 p.m. ET (show here: http://www.ncaa.com/live/player?vid=2017/3044&date=2017/04/25)
The Lady Bobcats, who completed their season last week, finished at 12-7 and are looking for their first bid since 2009. They were ranked No. 8 in last week's regional poll, and the top seven get into the women's event.
The men's team, fresh of their first Mountain East Conference tournament title since 2014, have received the automatic bid, known as an AQ, as MEC champions and will certainly be part of the field.
The Bobcats were ranked fourth in last week's NCAA regional poll, and hold hopes to possibly host the regional if they can climb to the No. 2 spot. However, only six men's programs make the field on the men's side.
Head coach Marc Walters thinks his team will have a better path to the Sweet 16 this season after winning the conference and securing the automatic bid.
"We had a tough April and came out of it in one piece," said Walters, whose team has strung together 11 straight wins going into the national tournament. "Fairmont State gave us a hard punch to the jaw three weeks ago, and it was a slow steady climb to get our game going back to form. Luckily the weather finally turned when we needed it and we got rolling."
The Falcons defeated the Bobcats 5-4 in Fairmont on April 4, leaving the 'Cats with a 5-6 record and many questions about their health, lineup, and doubles.
In the next two weeks, Wesleyan turned in three separate, key 5-4 wins to secure their share of the MEC regular season crown, and position themselves for a run at the tournament title.Wesleyan then got a bit of revenge, as they beat the Flacons in the rematch this past weekend.
"We were looking forward to that match," said Walters with a smile."There wasn't a whole lot of motivational speaking on my part before that one."
Wesleyan turned the tables on FSU, taking an early lead in doubles and then cruising out to a 5-2 win. The Bobcats completed their title run with a tense 5-3 win over Charleston in the finals on Sunday to claim their second MEC championship under Walters to go with two regular season crowns as well.
The women's team needs some help to get into the field, but Walters is proud of their development through a building year to get into contention.
"Having the women under consideration is a testament to their work this year," said Walters. "The ladies are still young, but they already had wins over West Liberty, California (Pa.), and are ranked above other established regional programs. It's been a solid year and there is much to look forward to."
Individually, Walters believes his team is still trending towards a higher place as this men's squad features only two seniors in the top six, and returns three All-MEC performers.
The women are also young, with only one senior, All-MEC standout Paula Pimenta, leaving for graduation.
With new courts, a solid regional schedule and so many key returning players, the future looks bright in Buckhannon for Wesleyan tennis.
But Walters is not ready to turn the page on 2017 just yet.
"We have a great chance to put both teams into the tournament, and we can see where we are making progress every day," says Walters of his teams. "I think we can make some noise next weekend and our opponents will definitely not be overlooking us."
The NCAA first round and second round matches are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30, at sites to be determined Tuesday and announced on the selection shows.
Pictured is ALL-MEC 1st team selection Ramon Rodriguez in action vs Roberts Wesleyan earlier this year.