Tiger Teams Preparing For Championship Sunday

The men's tennis team, the men's golf team and the No. 1 ranked women's golf team are all in the hunt for SEC titles.

Three Auburn teams are in position to win SEC Championships on Sunday.

At Sea Island, Ga., the men's golf team surprised the field by jumping to an 11-stroke lead after two of three rounds of the SEC Men's Golf Championship.

Up the coast and a bit west in Athens, Ga., the women's golf team is battling for an SEC Championship, too.

Farther north in Knoxville, Tenn., the men's tennis team is the finals of the conference championship vs. host Tennessee. The Tigers knocked off the Vols during the regular season in a seven-hour marathon upset victory that included an ironman performance by senior Tiago Ruffoni, who played four hours and 45 minutes despite cramping in his No. 2 singles match to clinch the victory.

AU men's tennis coach Eric Shore says he is thrilled with his team's play in Knoxville.

With golfer Jay Mundy posting a three-under-par round of 67 on Saturday, Auburn has a 567 total, 11 shots better than defending SEC and national champion Florida at the par 70, 6,945-yard Seaside Golf Course. The junior is at 137, which is three-under-par, and that puts him in the individual lead.

The Tigers trailed fourth-ranked Florida by one shot after posting an opening day 284 on Friday. Auburn shot a 282 on Saturday to help produce the big swing. Florida and LSU are tied for second at 578. Tennessee is fourth at 581 and is trailed by Georgia (582), Vanderbilt (585), Arkansas (589), South Carolina (591), Alabama (594), Ole Miss (598), Kentucky (599) and Mississippi State (607).

Auburn freshman Will Claxton fired rounds of 72 and 68 and is in third place, three shots off the pace. Sophomore Lee Williams is tied for ninth place at 143 with rounds of 71-72. Senior Kevin Haefner is tied for 20th after shooting rounds of 72 and 75.

Coach Mike Griffin said, "I am real proud of Jay Mundy and Will Claxton for their play today. We have a good team lead, but I am not comfortable with it yet. We still have some work to do. Tomorrow will be a day of business, that's for sure."

At the University of Georgia course, the Auburn women will have to battle upstart South Carolina and surging Tennessee to win the SEC golf title. After shooting 280 on Friday, the Tigers slipped to a three-over-par 291, which allowed 24th-ranked South Carolina to pull even at 571 by shooting a six-under-par total of 282.

Sixth-ranked Tennessee is in third at 577 after also posting a 282 round. Florida (593) is fourth followed by Vanderbilt (594), Georgia (600), Alabama (611), LSU (616), Arkansas (621), Ole Miss (624), Mississippi State (627) and Kentucky (629).

Junior Celeste Troche is pacing Auburn with rounds of 70-71, which is three strokes off the individual lead of 138 held by Kristy McPherson of South Carolina.

Celeste Troche

Senior Courtney Swaim shot 72 on Saturday after scoring a 71 on Friday and is in a tie for sixth at 143. Junior Danielle Downey, who was tied for the lead after an opening round 69, soared to 76 to drop to 11th at 145 with teammate Diana Ramage, who had a 75 in round two. SEC Freshman of the Year Kingsley Barrett scored for the Tigers on Saturday with a round of 73.

Auburn's Kim Evans, who was named SEC Coach of the Year on Friday, said, "You really have to give a lot of credit to South Carolina after the round they had here. Both South Carolina and Tennessee had great second rounds. We played pretty average today after having probably our best round of the year yesterday. I don't think we got content. We played pretty good, but this round just goes to show you the quality of teams we have in our conference.

"We know what we have to do now, and I think we will bounce back on the final day and have another great round," Evans added.

In Knoxville, there will be a rematch of Auburn's 4-3 regular season marathon men's tennis victory over Tennessee. However, this time the Vols will have the homecourt advantage.

Auburn advanced to the finals on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over 19-9 Kentucky to improve its record to 17-6 and all but wrap up an NCAA Tournament Top 16 seed, which should mean an NCAA Regional will be coming to the Luther Young Tennis Center.

The 15th-ranked Tigers and Volunteers will meet at 1 p.m. CST on Sunday to decide the champion.

On Saturday, the Tigers got singles victories from seniors Estevam Strecker and Mark Kovacs plus freshman Andy Colombo after winning the doubles point to close out the match.

"Mark Kovacs has been up and down all year, but he is really playing well like we know he is capable of playing," says AU coach Eric Shore. "I am proud of Estevam, too. He is really playing well."

At two singles, Colombo defeated Karim Benmansour 7-5, 6-3. Kovacs, a senior, stopped Gustav Pousette, 6-3, 7-6 (4) at No. 4 singles. Strecker defeated Rahim Esmail 6-2, 6-4 at six singles.

In doubles, Tiago Ruffoni and Rameez Junaid defeated Benmansour and Evan Austin 8-5 in the No. 1 match. Kovacs and Colombo were 8-6 winners over Johan Grunditz and Pousette.

"We still have a long way to go in this thing," said Shore said. "I have to give Kentucky credit. They played three tough matches. We were probably a little fresher today, but in the SEC it is going to be tough no matter what. That's two down and one to go."

The Tigers received a first round bye as the No. 3 seed and then blanked LSU 4-0 in round two.

Sunday's match vs. the Volunteers will be tougher, Shore says. "This is a huge challenge playing Tennessee on their homecourts in front of their fans. They will have a big crowd there cheering for them and they will get all of the calls. I think we have a chance to win this match, but we will have to play our best tennis. It is going to be very difficult but we plan to have fun and give it our best shot."

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