VALDOSTA -- With one eye on the task ahead, the Valdosta State men's tennis team took its first step in the national championship tournament Friday.
The eighth-ranked Blazers blanked Fort Valley State, 5-0, to advance to today's South Region final against seventh-ranked Ouachita Baptist, a 6-0 winner over Delta State earlier in the day.
VSU and Ouachita Baptist, which split two regular-season meetings, will meet for a berth in the NCAA national tournament at 10 a.m. today at the VSU courts.
Don't blame the Blazers if they had some of their attention on Ouachita Baptist. VSU had already blanked Fort Valley State this season, and the Wildcats brought just five players -- forfeiting one doubles and one singles match.
"We had played Fort Valley before, and had an idea on the outcome," said VSU head coach John Hansen. "I have to confess. All the guys are looking toward tomorrow (the Ouachita match)."
VSU dropped just four games in the two doubles matches, with Marco Borges and Phillip Laucht winning at No. 1 doubles, 8-1, and Christoph Schneider and Norman Weidle winning at No. 2 doubles, 8-3.
Schneider got the needed win in singles, winning his match at No. 2, 6-0, 6-3.
Ouachita Baptist dropped just five games in three doubles matches.
Guillaume Coubard and Gilles Lagardere won at No. 1, 8-3. Andre Edwall and Tjeerd Star won at No. 2, 8-2, and Pierre Perez and Emilien Rabin won at No. 3, 8-0.
Lagardere (6-1, 6-0 at No. 2), Perez (6-0, 6-2 at No. 4) and Star (6-0, 6-0 at No. 6) won singles matches.
"Lagardere's been hurt all year," said Hansen. "Watching him today, he was a lot healthier than the last time we saw him. That could be a very pivotal match.
"It's going to be a very interesting match (today). I think it will come down to the wire."
The national tournament, which will have 16 men's and 16 women's teams, begins Thursday in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
n The Lady Blazers advanced to their South Region final in Pensacola, Fla., with a 5-0 win over Harding. The Lady Blazers are ranked No. 13, and will meet sixth-ranked West Florida for the region title at 11 a.m. (ET) on UWF's home courts.
"I didn't think we'd win 5-0, but I'm very impressed," Hansen said. "(Assistant coach Tobias Huning) said we played well. We'll have to play great against West Florida."
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