Four Tiger Teams Having Strong Seasons

It's conference championship time for the men's and women's golf teams and the men's and women's tennis Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--It is conference championship competition time for a quartet of Auburn teams which are all enjoying their spring seasons.

Coach Kim Evans and her number one ranked women's golf Tigers are in Athens, Ga., to face a talented field for three days of competition starting on Friday.

Mike Griffin's 12th-ranked men's golf team is not the favorite at the men's championship event at Sea Island, Ga., but the Tigers definitely have the talent to make a run at the top spot.

Auburn men's tennis coach Eric Shore

In Knoxville, Tenn., the men's tennis team opens play on Friday. The Tigers are ranked third in a killer league in which all 12 SEC teams are likely to make the 64-team NCAA Tournament. Coach Eric Shore's Tigers received an opening round bye and face LSU for a chance to move into the semi-finals. A win over the Bayou Bengals would go a long way towards helping the Tigers earn homecourt advantage by winning one of 16 NCAA Regional Tournament bids.

Although not at the conference or national level of the other three Auburn teams, the women's tennis Tigers are having a solid season. Troy Porco's team won the SEC West and opened SEC Tournament play on Thursday with a victory over Mississippi State.

The women's golf team is led by junior Celeste Troche, who is averaging 73.83 strokes per round. That is 13th in the national individual rankings. Freshman Kingsley Barrett has been playing well for the Tigers and is in the lineup along with senior Courtney Swaim, junior Danielle Downey and sophomore Diana Ramage.

All-American Celeste Troche

Defending SEC and national champ Georgia has the advantage of playing on its home course. The Lady Bulldogs are ranked 10th nationally while Tennessee is ninth, Florida is 11th, Vanderbilt is 12th, South Carolina is 24th and LSU is 25th. The 54-hole event runs Friday through Sunday.

With five tournament titles already this season, Auburn is the favorite but will have to play well to win. "We have had a great season, one of the best if not the best in Auburn golf history," Evans says. "A good tournament will give us momentum going into the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championship."

The men's tennis team will play rival LSU on Friday at the University of Tennessee courts with first team All-SEC picks sophomore Rameez Junaid, senior Tiago Ruffoni and freshman Andrew Colombo leading the way for the Tigers. Junaid, who plays one singles, is ranked 13th nationally. Auburn is ranked 15th as a team with a 15-6 overall mark and a 7-4 SEC record.

Freshman Andrew Columbo is an All-SEC pick with a high-powered serve his main weapon.

Georgia is the top seed with its 22-2 overall record and 10-1 SEC mark. The only loss came last Saturday at Tennessee to the Vols, who are the defending national champs. Ole Miss at 8-3 in the league and 17-4 overall is the number two seed.

The Tigers open vs. LSU, which knocked out Alabama in the opening round while the Tigers had a bye. Auburn defeated LSU 4-1 during the regular season, but Shore says the match is no certain victory because the Bayou Bengals have revamped their lineup since the loss to AU.

At the Seaside Golf Course in Sea Island, Ga., fourth-ranked Florida is the favorite to win the men's golf title. The Gators are the defending national champs.

Auburn's Griffin says that Tennessee is a team to watch because the sixth-ranked Vols are playing well late in the season. Auburn, at 12th and Georgia at 15th, are the only other Top 25 teams in the field at the par 70 6,945-yard course that Griffin says is in immaculate condition.

Kevin Haefner, the individual champion at the Billy Hitchcock Invitational in Auburn's last outing, leads the Tigers. Griffin says the senior is the team's unquestioned leader on and off the course. He is ranked 10th in the national individual rankings with a 71.1 shots per round average. Sophomore Lee Williams is 22nd at 71.9. The Tiger lineup includes freshmen Will Claxton and Manuel Offermanns plus junior Jay Mundy.

The 54-hole event, last won in 1981, runs Friday through Sunday.

After posting an 0-13 SEC record in 2001, the women's tennis team rallied this spring with a 6-5 league mark, which put them in first place in the SEC West.

Porco's Tigers, who are 14-7 overall and ranked 27th nationally, followed that up with an opening round SEC Tournament victory on Thursday to advance into the quarter-finals where they will face Vandy on Friday in Columbia, S.C. The Commodores blanked Auburn 7-0 during the regular season on April 5th in Nashville and are the third seed.

Freshman Petra Bercik, who has posted an 9-2 record in SEC singles, has given the Tigers a boost this season. She is 9-2 in SEC doubles playing with sophomore Carolina Ramirez.

On Thursday, Auburn defeated 11th seed Mississippi State 4-1. The Tigers won the doubles point with Bercik/Ramirez and Liz Sauerborn/Sarah Suitor taking victories. In singles, Bercik, Ramirez and Carolina Mauer were winners for the Tigers.

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