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Men's Tennis Arrives In Athens For Rematch With Pepperdine

Junior Clifford Marsland practicing at the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship in Athens, Ga.
Junior Clifford Marsland practicing at the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship in Athens, Ga.
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May 16, 2012

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ATHENS, Ga. - The No. 20-ranked University of Tulsa men's tennis team (20-8) will travel to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championships. TU will face No. 7 Pep¬perdine (25-6) in the Round of 16 at 6 p.m. May 18 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

The Golden Hurricane defeated No. 35 Minnesota and No. 10 Oklahoma last week in the first two rounds of the championship to advance to the Round of 16 for the second-straight year. Tulsa's triumph over the Sooners was the first over a top-10 opponent in school history.

The Golden Hurricane is on a 10-match win streak, and the team has won 14 of its last 15 matches. TU and Pepperdine faced each other Feb. 24 in Tulsa, with the Waves picking up the narrow 4-3 victory.

Tulsa defeated No. 35 Minnesota (4-2) and No. 10 Oklahoma (4-1) on May 11-12 in Norman, Okla., to advance to the NCAA Round of 16 for the second-straight season. TU won the doubles point against the Golden Gophers and received singles victories from juniors Clifford Marsland, Grant Ive and sophomore Japie De Klerk. Tulsa also won the doubles point against the Sooners and picked up singles wins from senior Ashley Watling, junior Tristan Jackson and Marsland. The Golden Hurricane has com¬peted in the NCAA Tournament each of the last seven years, and TU reached the Round of 16 for the first time in program history last season by defeating Oklahoma and Texas on back-to-back days in Norman. The Golden Hurricane will be making its 14th appearance in the NCAA Championship.

Pepperdine (25-6) will carry a 22-match win streak into the NCAA Round of 16. The team topped Green Bay and No. 28 Washington by identical 4-0 results in the first two rounds of the championship. The Waves had a six-match losing skid prior to their cur¬rent win streak, but those losses were to No. 1 USC, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 8 UCLA, and No. 13 California. Pepperdine has defeated 10 top-25 programs this season, including No. 5 Duke, No. 8 California, No. 8 Stanford, No. 17 Washington, No. 17 San Diego, No. 19 Tulsa, No. 20 Tennessee, No. 20 Okla¬homa, No. 22 Texas Tech, and No. 25 San Diego. The team has three ranked singles players in No. 8 Sebastian Fanselow (22-3), No. 30 Finn Tearney (17-7) and No. 109 Mousheg Hovhannisyan (17-12). Alex Llompart also owns a 21-6 mark. Llompart and Tearney (15-12) are the No. 15-ranked doubles team. Tulsa head coach Vince West¬brook is 0-4 all-time against Pepperdine. Two of those losses were in the NCAA First Round in 2000 (4-0) and the 4-3 result from earlier this season.

Tulsa won the 2012 Conference USA Championship with a 4-0 triumph over Memphis in the finals April 23 in Orlando, Fla. The Golden Hurricane won its second-straight title and its sixth in the last seven years. The unprecedented six championships are the most in conference history. TU defeated UCF 4-3 in the quarter¬finals, and the team topped UAB 4-1 in the semifinals. The finals marked the fourth-straight year Tulsa has eliminated Memphis from the league tournament. TU improved its all-time record in the Conference USA Championship to a staggering 20-1 (.952). This is the second-straight year and the fourth overall (2007-08, 2011-12) that both Tulsa tennis programs have captured the Conference USA Championship. Of the 14 league titles contested since the most recent conference realignment in 2005-06, the Golden Hurricane tennis programs have captured 11 championships.

Thomas Liversage and senior Ashley Watling both earned 2012 ITA Central Region awards, the organiza¬tion announced May 14. Liversage was named the ITA Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year, while Watling was named the Senior of the Year. Liversage became the third Tulsa coach to be named ITA Cen¬tral Region Coach of the Year (Dean Orford, 1997-2000, 2002 - Michael Wheelen, 2007). Watling became the sixth player in TU men's history to win the senior player of the year award (Chris Milliron, 1995 - Gareth Williams, 1999 - Ryan Livesay, 2003 - Dustin Taylor, 2004 - Arnau Brugues, 2009).

Senior Ashley Watling was named the Conference USA Player of the Year, and four other members of the Tulsa men's tennis team earned postseason recognition. Watling became the third player in school history to win the prestigious honor (Arnau Brugues 2006-09, Marcelo Arevalo 2011), and the Golden Hurricane has now captured six of the last seven player of the year awards. Watling was one of four members of the Golden Hurricane who were selected to the All-Conference USA Singles First Team. The mark tied the conference record for most first-team selections by one team with last year's Tulsa squad. Watling earned his third-straight first team honor, and he was joined by juniors Clifford Marsland, Grant Ive and sophomore Japie De Klerk. Marsland and De Klerk both earned their second-straight honor, while Ive received his first-career postseason laurel. Watling and Marsland were also named to the All-Conference USA Doubles First Team as the highest-ranked tandem in the league at No. 10 in the nation. This was Watling's third straight first team doubles award and Marsland's second in a row. Ive was named the Outstanding Singles Player of the Championship. This marked the sixth time in the last seven years TU has won the honor. The doubles team of De Klerk and freshman Alejandro Espejo were honored as the Outstanding Doubles Team of the Championship. TU won the honor four of the last six years.

The top 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams will all compete for individual national titles in the season-ending NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships in Athens, Ga., May 23-28. The top-ranked singles player/doubles teams from each conference all earned automatic bids into the field. Senior Ashley Watling made the field as the top-ranked C-USA singles player at No. 77, while the doubles team of Watling and junior Clifford Marsland (No. 11) earned the Conference USA automatic bid to the NCAA Doubles Cham¬pionship. This will be Watling's second trip to the singles championship, and the Watling/Marsland duo will make their second-straight trip to the doubles tournament.

Tulsa has captured six of the seven C-USA Championships contested since the team joined the league in 2005-06. TU began its run in 2006, when the team defeated top-seed Rice 4-1 in the title match. The Golden Hurricane has earned the No. 1 seed in each of the last six tournaments, and the team faced Rice in the title match each year from 2006-11. The Owls' lone win came in 2010, when they defeated TU 4-3. Tulsa reclaimed the throne in 2011 and defended the title in 2012. The Golden Hurricane owns an all-time record of 20-1 (.952) at the Conference USA Championship.

All of Tulsa's eight losses this season have been to teams that were ranked inside the top 25 when they faced the Golden Hurricane. The lowest-ranked team to beat TU was No. 25 San Diego, and the Toreros sit at No. 27 in the nation. Four of the eight teams that have beaten Tulsa are now ranked higher then when they faced TU (No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 15 North Carolina), one is ranked the same (No. 14 California), and the other three are all ranked in¬side the top 30 (No. 11 Stanford, No. 27 San Diego, No. 28 Washington).

The C-USA Men's Tennis Athlete of the Week award should be renamed The University of Tulsa Men's Tennis Athlete of the Week after TU's complete domination of the award the past two seasons. Mem¬bers of the Golden Hurricane have won 19 of the 26 possible weekly honors dating back to the begin¬ning of the 2011 campaign. Tulsa athletes won a league-record nine in a row to close out last year. The Golden Hurricane captured eight of the 13 honors this year, including five in a row earlier this season. Senior Ashley Watling (January 31, February 7, April 10) and juniors Tristan Jackson (February 14, April 17), Clifford Marsland (February 21, February 28) and Grant Ive (March 26) all won the award this year.

Tulsa is currently ranked No. 20 in the most recent Campbell/ITA College Tennis rankings released April 30. The newest individual rankings were released April 30, and Tulsa's top doubles team of senior Ashley Watling and junior Clifford Marsland sit at No. 11 in the nation. Earlier in the season, Watling and Marsland tied the school record with their No. 3 doubles rank. Watling is the highest-ranked singles player at No. 77, and he is followed by Marsland (No. 97) and sophomore Japie De Klerk (No. 117).