JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Both Buccaneers’ tennis squads earned automatic bids into the 2023 NCAA Tournament with SoCon championships in April. But, on Monday, they finally learned their First Round opponents.
The women had to wait a bit, but ETSU finally popped up on screen in the Columbus Regional. The ladies will face at-large qualifier, Vanderbilt, out of the Southeastern Conference.
The Lady Bucs (19-7) faced the Commodores (15-11) last season in Nashville, losing 5-2. However, this year is an new season and this Blue and Gold squad is confident in what they can do.
“It was very exciting – we were all nervous before the show,” redshirt senior Laylo Bakhodirova. “We were all shaking like ‘where are we going to go.’ There were so many predictions.”
“Seeing that we’re playing Vanderbilt – it was exciting,” she continued. “It’s not a seeded team and I think we have a great chance as a team to go there, compete and show our best tennis.”
“They’re excited – they’re ready,” head coach Ricky Rojas said. “They’re determined and they’re ready to go there and do something special, too.”
First ball is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday in Columbus. The winner of the ETSU-Vanderbilt showdown will face either No. 10 seed Ohio State or Xavier.
The ETSU men (12-13) are into the NCAA Tournament field for a fifth-straight season after another SoCon tournament championship.
They, too, will play First Round matches in Columbus, Ohio and face the host and No. 3 seed, Ohio State (29-2).
The Buckeyes carry a 14-match win streak into the tournament. But, no matter the opponent or their form, the Bucs’ experience in the postseason should provide a boost this weekend.
“It was actually very exciting for me – one more year to be there,” redshirt junior Dimitri Badra explained. “We are excited – it’s a tough team that we are facing, but we are going to give our best and try to beat them.”
“They’ve made this tournament ‘X’ amount of years in a row, so they have experience playing in the postseason and they know what to expect,” Rojas added. “They’re excited and they’ll be ready, too.”
The Bucs are set to face Ohio State on Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner of the matchup will take on either Louisville or Texas Tech.