SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Anyone, anywhere, anytime. Entering just its fourth year of Division I play, the USC Upstate men's tennis team has shown no fear when it comes to scheduling in the past three years and the trend will continue as the Spartans will kick off the 2011 season at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, choosing to play at National runners-up Tennessee during the tournament's draft on Wednesday afternoon.
The ITA Kick-Off Weekend will feature 60 ranked teams playing at 15 different regional four-team tournaments looking for a chance to advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship at the University of Washington.
USC Upstate, which finished the 2010 season ranked 54th in the nation, will enter the Tennessee regional as the No. 2 seed behind the Vols, who will host the event at the six-court Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center. Clemson will enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed and San Diego will serve as the No. 4 seed.
The regional will kick off on Friday, Jan. 28, with Tennesee and San Diego facing off at 1 p.m. before Upstate faces Clemson at 4 p.m. The winners of the matches will face off on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. in the championship match for the bid to the Indoor Championships. A consolation match will precede the final at 11 a.m.
Upstate will enter the tournament with a history between all of the teams at the tournament besides Tennessee, whom it has never met. In 2010, the Spartans fell to the Tigers, 5-2, on Jan. 23, but rebounded from the loss to go on to finish the season one spot ahead of the Tigers in the final ITA rankings. Upstate also posted a 4-3 win over San Diego during the 2010 season, Upstate's first win of the year over a ranked opponent.
Upstate, which won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, faced off against eight teams that finished amongst the top 75 in 2010, posting wins over No. 61 San Diego (4-3, March 11), No. 71 Yale (6-1, March 16) and No. 51 ETSU (4-3, March 20) en route to an 18-5 overall record. The tough schedule proved to be important in the team's success, as the Spartans also beat Big South champions Winthrop, 4-3 on March 23, and faced six teams that made the NCAA Tournament field en route to the team's first outright conference title in school history.
The Spartans, led by A-Sun Coach of the Year Alessandro De Marzo, rose from No. 72 in the preseason ITA rankings 18 spots to No. 54, reaching a high of No. 52 in the country after a 6-1 win over Stetson on April 1.