Osorio to Compete For National Singles Championship
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Any time the heat and humidity of his first Florida summer began to slow his daily training sessions down, Juan Carlos Osorio focused on what lie ahead. The Florida Gulf Coast University senior wanted to show he belongs among the elite in NCAA Division II tennis.
After claiming FGCU’s third consecutive singles title at the Wilson/ITA Southeast Regional tournament two weeks ago, the native of Quito, Ecuador has done just that. Osorio will be one of eight regional champions competing for the Division II singles championship in the 2005 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Small College Championships being at the FGCU Tennis Complex beginning Thursday morning.
Osorio, ranked No. 33 among Division II players entering the fall, knocked off three top-15 nationally ranked players to win the Southeast Region title, including a defeat of 14th ranked Sebastian Niedermayer of Eckerd, 6-4, 6-4. He attributes his ascent into the college tennis elite to his summer workouts with younger brother, Andres, a standout player at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.
“I stayed here over the summer with my brother and trained very hard,” said Osorio, whose mother made the trip from their native Ecuador to celebrate her birthday while watching him win the regional tournament. “I had been looking forward to playing in the regional and competing, especially in front of my mother, who taught me how to play the game. Once you begin playing the rankings don’t matter. Each match is new. Every time I step on the court it is a battle to win. I just try and go out and play hard and compete.”
Success is not new at FGCU for Osorio. Last spring he posted a 20-1 record in dual match singles play and had 18 wins in doubles play as FGCU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament. The Eagles finished the season ranked ninth nationally by the ITA, the highest ever for a team at FGCU. It’s that type of winning atmosphere that attracted Osorio to FGCU after two years at Ventura Community College in California.
“We have good players here and strong competition in our region,” said Osorio. “It’s nice to see recognition for our program and that our hard work is paying results. And Coach Horton is always there to help us improve on and off the court. I feel good that I accomplished something for myself and for FGCU.”
In the ITA National Small College Championships each division (men's and women's singles and doubles) consists of the eight champions from regional tournaments played across the country, from which a national champion from each division is determined during the first two-and-a-half days of competition.
The national champions from each division square off in the ITA "Super Bowl" of Small College Tennis during the weekend to determine the overall ITA National Small College Champions, who then earn berths into the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, a Division I event being hosted by The Ohio State University in November.
Horton, who coached two-time Southeast Regional champion Richard Stempnowski in this event, feels his newest regional champion can rise to the level of play at the national tournament.
“It’s special that we have had a player reach this tournament three years in a row,” said Horton, who has led FGCU to a 61-21 dual match record in his first four seasons. “Richard set the bar as a two-time regional champion. Now Juan is among the elite players in the country and competing for a national championship. He has a chance to do well.”
The top two seeds in the Division II singles bracket are Matias Oddone of Drury and Kevin Taylor of Francis Marion. Both were among the top ranked players in the country in 2004.
“Those two players are very, very good,” said Horton. “But if Juan continues to play at the level he displayed two weeks ago he belongs in that group.”
Osorio, for his part, remains focused on the task at hand as he prepares to open the tournament at 8 a.m. on Thursday against Junyoung Kim of BYU-Hawaii.
“I know all of these players are going to be good players and I respect what they have accomplished,” said Osorio. “It will be a good tournament and I am ready for the challenge.”
This year’s event, sponsored locally by ASG, is the second consecutive ITA Small College National Championships to be held at FGCU. Daily action at the FGCU Tennis Complex will continue through Sunday and admission is free.