Imagine this, if you will... Vanderbilt's men's and women's basketball teams have both just qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Stallings' men are ranked No. 6 in the nation, while Melanie Balcomb's women are ranked 15th. Now, imagine that both teams will host the first two rounds at home, in Memorial Gym-- on the same weekend.
Can you imagine the excitement swirling on campus? The hoopla? The media circus?
Now imagine that the sport is tennis, and that the coaches instead are Ken Flach and Geoff MacDonald... and that's exactly what will happen this weekend at Vanderbilt's Brownlee O. Currey tennis center.
On April 30, both the men's and women's teams learned that the NCAA had selected Nashville and Vanderbilt to host both a men's and a women's regional. It took some scrambling to schedule the six matches over a single weekend-- a graduation weekend, no less-- but it was a chore that McGugin Center was more than happy to tackle.
MacDonald's 15th-ranked women, just two years removed from an appearance in the NCAA championship match, open with Boston University on Friday afternoon. Should they win, they would face either No. 21 Notre Dame or No. 38 Missouri in the second round on Saturday.
Meanwhile Flach's sixth-ranked men, fresh off a scintillating and unprecedented SEC Tournament championship, have their sights set on even higher goals. The male Commodores open with OVC Champion Tennessee Tech on Saturday morning, and hope to survive to face either Pepperdine or Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon.
Hoops fans, you know well how this works-- win and keep playing... or lose and see your lofty dreams go up in smoke.
Saturday's matches will also provide a chance to see some of the finest players in school history compete, perhaps for the last time, on their home courts.
Bobby Reynolds, for the uninitiated, just happens to be the top-ranked player in the country and the reigning Most Outstanding Player in the SEC Tourney. With a sensational 40-6 record his senior season, the Acworth, Ga. product has helped turn the Commodore men's tennis program into a feared national power in his senior year. Chad Harris enters the NCAA's ranked a not-too-shabby No. 16 in the country. Sarah Riske and Aleke Tsoubanos make up the nation's third-ranked doubles team. All four will make appearances in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships next week.
Were this basketball-- or heaven forbid, football-- the excitement level would be unbelievable. But sadly, because it's merely tennis, the media hasn't picked up just yet on how monumental this weekend is for Vanderbilt's programs. Consequently, the significance may be lost on plenty of fans as well.
Simply put, it's the biggest weekend ever in the history of Vanderbilt tennis. It just doesn't get any better. If you love tennis, you'll be in hog heaven. If you haven't had the chance yet to witness firsthand the excitement of NCAA championship team tennis... there could hardly be a better time.
Here's hoping that victory-starved fans of Vanderbilt football and men's basketball will bring their sunscreen and turn out in droves to support two "future revenue" teams that-- though nowhere near as high-profile-- are every bit as worthy of a strong home-court advantage.
Women's Regional • Friday-Saturday, May 9-10
First Round • Friday, May 9
No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 38 Missouri - 10 am
No. 15 Vanderbilt vs. Boston University - 2 pm
Second Round • Saturday, May 10
Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner - 3 pm
Men's Regional • Friday-Saturday, May 10-11
First Round • Saturday, May 10
No. 26 Pepperdine vs. No. 39 Mississippi State - 9 am
No. 6 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee Tech - Noon
Second Round • Sunday, May 11
Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner - Noon