Florida Gulf Coast University netted spots in the final Fila Division II Collegiate Tennis Rankings following a season in which J. Webb Horton coached both teams for the first time.
The men (16-6), ranked ninth this time a year ago, finished 14th, while FGCU’s women (13-6), who were 38th at the end of last year, are ranked 15th.
“That’s a nice rise,” said Horton of the women.
The women’s team knocked off then-No. 9 Nova Southeastern, then-No. 14 Rollins College, then-No. 21 Florida Southern and then-No. 26 Drury last season.
Both teams were stopped in the Southeast Regional at Lynn University early last month. The men fell in the first round to Florida Southern, 5-2, and the women lost in the second round against top-seeded Lynn, 5-0.
Two FGCU seniors — Juan Carlos Osorio and Tim Offerman — are All-Americans. Osorio, who was undefeated, finished the season ranked second in singles. Osorio and Offerman teamed up for a final 10th-place ranking in doubles.
“Tim proved he’s one of the top doubles players in D-II,” Horton said. “He and Juan, they were a good team. They had some great wins.”
Osorio, a native of Ecuador who transferred to FGCU after two seasons at Ventura (Calif.) Community College, is the school’s first singles and doubles All-American.
“Juan is a special player,” Horton said. “You don’t get to coach a lot of people like him in your life.”
Carlos and Offerman, who played No. 2 singles, were the team’s lone seniors, and they led the Eagles through a gauntlet of D-II powers.
FGCU’s men faced nine teams that finished in the top 20, toppinng No. 7 Armstrong State, No.¥20 Rollins and No. 13 Florida Southern (in regular-season play). The Eagles fell against No.¥2 Lynn, No. 3 Drury, No. 5 Ouachita Baptist, No. 6 Barry and No.¥8 Eckerd.
“The men’s team, our goal is always to be in the top 10,” Horton said. “I thought we had a couple of flat matches at the end there.
“But still, to be ranked in the top 15 in the nation is pretty special because of the competition we face day-in and day-out. We have little time to breathe, and to play the quality of competition and end up where we are is pretty special.”
FGCU’s top six women will return for next season. Seniors Tenille Elias and Kristin Foelgner are the only losses.
Horton, who also is an assistant athletic director, and FGCU athletic director Carl McAloose will soon meet to decide if the coach will again lead both teams next season.
SOFTBALL NOT RANKED: FGCU’s softball team was not in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s final Division II Top 25 Poll despite its 58-9 record.
Coach David Deiros was not surprised with or upset about that after his team lost two of three South Regional games at Florida Southern last month.
“We just didn’t get the job done at regionals,” Deiros said.
The Eagles will lose just one player — starting senior shortstop Christine Beck. Although Deiros said Beck’s loss is a big one, the Eagles expect to progress further next season.
Said sophomore ace Rachael Edinger, who was 26-6 in her first FGCU season after transferring from Polk Community College: “After seeing how well we did this year, I’m really excited to see what we’re going to do in the following years.
“I’ve never been on a team with this much talent before. I’ve never had this much offense behind me, and I’ve never had that strong a defense behind me. So I’m just really excited about the next two years.”
Asked if FGCU can go even further next season, Beck did not hesitate.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’ve never seen, in any team I’ve ever played for, as much growth as this team has made and how mature this team has gotten in the time that we had.”