1996-97 Women's Tennis Year in Review
The Florida State women's tennis teams wound up it's regular season by qualifying for NCAA regional tournament play at the campus of Vanderbilt University. It's the second consecutive appearance in post-season play for the Lady Seminoles.
The women's team (12-10), led by seniors Lori Sowell and Ann Olsson, faced top-seeded and host school Vanderbilt in the NCAA Southeast Regional. Although, the Lady Seminoles were defeated in that opening round of tournament play, the season was marked by many positive strides for following seasons to come.
First-year head coach Lise Gregory guided the team back to winning form after FSU posted an 8-11 record in 1996. FSU also advanced to the semifinal rounds of the ACC tournament against second-seeded Wake Forest, an accomplishment the 'Noles have achieved each year since joining the conference back in 1992. Third-seeded FSU was defeated by the Top 10-ranked Demon Deacons, 5-1, in that semifinal round. The women defeated the No. 6 seed Georgia Tech in opening play, 5-1. FSU No. 2 singles player Ann Olsson went 2-0 at the conference tournament, including a straight upset win over No. 62 Maggie Harris of Wake Forest 6-2, 6-2.
Sowell, an All-American for singles in 1995 and '96, received a national ranking throughout the entire year, culminating in All-Conference honors with Olsson. Sowell's recognition to the All-ACC team was her third straight post-season conference honor, while former junior college all-american transfer Olsson was honored for the first time. Olsson and Sowell were also nationally ranked as a doubles tandem at No. 39 by season's end.
Freshman Ali Weber was the lone Seminole to pick up a flight championship as she was the top singles player at the No. 5 position.
Gregory joined the Seminole tennis program after spending the 1996 season as assistant coach with Vanderbilt. She was a seven-time all-american and NCAA doubles champion while an undergraduate at the University of Miami. Following her collegiate career Gregory spent nearly a decade playing professionally, culminating in many Virginia Slim doubles and singles titles and No. 4 world doubles ranking.
With a challenging 1997 dual match schedule and some quality wins, the Lady Seminoles were able to keep their ITA/Rolex national ranking all season. Of that '97 schedule, 20 out of 23 matches were against nationally-ranked opponents by season's end and wins occurred versus nationally ranked squads such as Rice, NC State and South Florida. It was those victories that kept the Lady Seminoles among the Southeast's finest.
As far as the 1997 Atlantic Coast Conference competition was concerned, Florida State was among the league's best with six regular season wins. The Lady Seminoles had conference victories over Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, Maryland and Virginia. The Tribe also avenged 1996 losses to Virginia and North Carolina to round out its third place conference finish behind nationally-prominent Duke and Wake Forest.
The ACC had nearly every one of it's teams nationally ranked during the 1996 season and every team, including the Seminoles, nationally ranked by season's end.