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Head Coach Brandon Stokes

June 10, 2010

The sweltering summer is finally here. It tests the will of every committed tennis player. So far, many of the Owls in Florida and across the seas are making positive progress towards to making our next season the best one yet. Every Owl is motivated by last season's experiences and the hope of next year.

Summer classes, summer camps, clay and hard court tournaments, healing the body, rejuvenating the spirit, and spending time with family and friends watching the World Cup and Wimbledon are many of the activities our team is engaged in this month.

Our program is headed in the right direction with the right kind of disciplined guys on the bus. We roll along this summer--some of us across the pond while many of us are here in south Florida. Despite the geographical separation we are bound by our collective commitment and spirit to FAU and The Owl Way. Summertime is a splendid time to improve.

Go Owls!

April 19, 2010

Grab the Moment

We leave early Wednesday for our Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament. We practice Wednesday afternoon and then play the quarterfinals on Thursday morning. Win and advance. Lose and return empty handed.

We have had 2 consecutive weeks of solid preparation and a regular season match that provided objective feedback. We believe. The moment is now. We started back in mid August with this theme: "Grab the Moment." The time is now for us to do so...on every single court. We have trained, competed, laughed, cried, bled, and sweat's going to be a fun time at the Conference Championships!

You can follow us online at the host site, University of New Orleans website:


April 12, 2010

What a regular season finale! Evert's Tennis Academy graciously hosted our final regular season match versus Bethune Cookman University. It was a terrific venue to promote college tennis on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Boca Raton, FL.

Our senior, Lawrence Harradine, led a relentless flock of Dirty Birds against the Wildcats. He and his partner, Spider Boy Matschke, clinched the doubles point for us. Then in singles, Law Dog, clinched the team point as well--an appropriate way for him to end his regular season career with the Owls.

The boys had the look of a determined competitor all day. They earned their confidence with a challenging week of off court and on court training. Our motivation was the sting of a tough road trip and the opportunity to end the regular season on our terms. We needed to demonstrate the Owl Way on court.

Now, the focus becomes our post season performance. We remember the vacant feeling of holding the runner up trophy last year. Thus, the challenges of training are intensified. The internal and external motivations melt into one. We remind ourselves what is temporary so we make positive and joyful memories that will last forever.

April 5, 2010

What a Sun Belt Shootout in Troy, AL! We piled in one large van and made the 10 hour road trip northeast. It was fun to be together and bond especially after roosting in Boca Raton for the previous six weeks. It's never good to leave our sunny beaches and families but it was perfect timing for team chemistry as we prepare for a post season title run. Our Dirty Bird family needed to be together.

We started strong in the tournament. The doubles versus MTSU was the most dramatic of the season. It was necessary for us to persevere and clinch the point. Unfortunately, it was the last doubles match we played at the tournament. The other seven coaches voted to start singles first on the second and final day of the tournament. Doubles would only be played if the match was tied 3-3 after the singles competition. I vehemently disagreed with the proposal and thus the decision. I still do.

We battled Troy the next day on Final Four day. We lost a three and a half hour classic college match. The Troy students and fans provided noise, intensity, and fun to the drama unfolding on the 6 courts. We also had a vocal FAU family providing home support for us--thanks mom and pop! We came up short but needed to regroup and play in an hour and a half versus a talented South Alabama team. We defeated them in March but they took it to us Saturday evening.

It was a bittersweet moment for our team. We had a few guys battle the entire time. Other Owls did not give their best effort mentally and emotionally. We found new threshold levels which is disappointing and embarrassing at that moment--to be exposed, to show vulnerability is always scary. We accept reality for it what it is--no illusions. Thus, we work harder and smarter and commit to The Owl Way.

We had a positive team drive back home on Easter Sunday. Our bodies are beat up and will continue to be for the next two and a half weeks as we prepare for our final home match vs. Bethune Cookman this Saturday and the Conference Championships. Our spirit is strong and will only grow stronger as we work harder and smarter. The physical pain is temporary...the pain of losing due to lack of our best effort to prepare and then fight on the court for each other lasts forever.

See you Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for our final regular season match!

Go Dirty Birds!

March 29, 2010

What a month for the Owls! We finished our 11 consecutive match home stand which started in mid February. We won more than we lost--those 4-3 matches reveal our character...and individually we had many guys find their competitive stride. The Dirty Bird momentum is surging at the right time of the season!

Our trainer, Shayna, did a wonderful job with prehab, rehab, and nurturing healthy bodies and minds throughout the intensive 9 matches in 17 days. Our boys did a good job balancing studies, athletic intensity, and social life during the month. We are in a solid position to take our first Sun Belt conference road trip into Troy, AL this weekend. We play 1 match on Friday, the 2nd, and a doubleheader on Saturday, April 3rd.

Thank you to everyone who continues to actively support the efforts of our boys this season. It means a tremendous amount to me as their head coach to see the attention, affection, and positive energy you give to our team. We will vigorously represent FAU this weekend before our final home match in a couple weekends.

March 22, 2010

What a week for our team once again. 3 matches in 7 days...and the boys continue to study and take exams! We started with positive momentum on Tuesday vs. NJIT. We stumbled out of the doubles gate versus conference foe South Alabama but rebounded with solid singles play to pull out a tough match. On Sunday we lost a 4-3 decision to a pesky Princeton team. We were simply outplayed in a couple doubles positions. We will fix the habit of beating ourselves! In singles we had opportunities before us but we must play more offensively, with conviction and confidence, in close matches. Who cares about the result...just give our all and play on our terms. Grab the moment baby!!!

We have another home opportunity this Wednesday at 2pm against Wright State. It's Senior Day to honor Lawrence Harradine. So come on out and make some noise for Law Dog and the rest of the Dirty Birds!

March 15, 2010

"Times Like These"

Foo Fighters

We spent our Spring Break 2010 together in Boca Raton last week. We played 5 matches in 7 days. We won more than we lost...but the ending was bittersweet. Thus, the song by Foo Fighters is one I reach to in times like these. The refrain is one of the best in rock music.

"It's times like these you learn to live again

It's times like these you give to give again

It's times like these you learn to love again

It's times like these time and time again."

Our boys were challenged over break to compete at their best against good teams all week. They were challenged to be uncommon men when the common student at FAU was celebrating a week off from studies. We built a winning streak and then the ultimate test was in front of us. Due to the rain storm on Friday the 11th, our match against nationally ranked conference foe Troy University was postponed. Due to their commitment to play a match on Saturday we rescheduled for Sunday morning. This meant the boys would have the opportunity to play a doubleheader against 2 good teams!

This was our first of the season and the team was excited. We have another one ahead of us in a few weeks. We came up short against a well coached Troy team on Sunday morning. Doubles slipped through our grasp. After an hour break we started against Cleveland State at 2pm. We won the doubles point but did not grab the moment on many singles courts and dropped a 4-3 decision.

We played 12 singles matches on Sunday and 8 went 3 sets. We played 6 doubles matches and all 3 went the distance. The boys were spent Sunday evening. And I am proud of them.

I hum the refrain from Foo Fighters repeatedly. And I remind the boys and myself of a great scene from the classic movie Batman Begins. After young Bruce Wayne falls down the well and is surrounded by his greatest fear and inspiration--bats-- the following dialogue takes place between father and son. "Bruce, why do we get knocked down?" A searching stare by young Bruce. Silence...then the answer... "So we can get back up again."

We have 3 more home matches this week against tough teams. Tuesday vs NJIT, Thursday vs South Alabama, and Sunday against Princeton. First serve at 2pm at the Reef. See you there!

Times like these...

March 8, 2010

The Owls continued their 11 consecutive home match stand with a 2pm start against the University of Buffalo. It was a beautiful Boca Raton day--75degrees, no clouds, and a slight breeze. The Bulls came out in doubles and won at 1 doubles and then FAU won at 2 doubles to bring the focus to 3 doubles. The teams traded breaks throughout the match. The FAU team of Braunworth and Garibovic saved 4 match points to force a tie break. The Owls would come up short in a dramatic finish after not capitalizing on a match point and lose 9-7.

"We must do the fundamentals better in doubles. It's this simple. And we must initiate with courage instead of playing tentative."

The Owls are down 0-1 after the hour and 15 minute doubles match. "Fortunately for us our singles have been consistently improving and we continue to demonstrate our toughness. Regardless of our level of play we compete at our highest level."

The Bulls opened up with a win at 4 singles 6-4, 6-3 to stretch their team lead to 2-0. It was the last point they would win. The Dirty Birds would win the final 5 singles matches to improve the team record to 5-3 on the year. Georg Matschke put FAU on the board first with a 6-3, 6-4 win at 6 singles. Matty Boy Braunworth persevered at 5 singles to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to tie the team match at 2-2. Then Joshua "Doc" Scholl gave the Owls the lead with a 7-6 (7), 6-3 gutsy performance at 3 singles. Senior Law Dog Harradine clinched the match with family and teammates cheering him on as he won a spirited battle at 1 singles 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Big E Garibovic wrapped the victory up for the Dirty Birds at 2 singles with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 win.

The Owls continue their 17 day home stand versus Kennesaw State on Tuesday, March 9 at 2pm.

"Thanks for the vocal fan support today from FAU staff and students, family, and local Owl supporters. It's great having you with us!"

February 22, 2010

Thank you to our fans for coming out today. It was a beautiful day for college tennis--77degrees and blue skies.

FGCU is improved from last year. It's an energetic and determined team.

This was an important match for us. The boys prepared well, were focused and did a good job of minimizing distractions over the weekend. We needed to apply the lessons we learned from Friday to give us momentum heading into this two week break. We improved in some areas and continued to demonstrate mental and physical toughness throughout the lineup. You have to earn toughness and the confidence that comes with it. There is a reason we are the Dirty Birds.

We need to get healthy first and foremost. We are home for six weeks which helps with the healing process. This means we are looking at a significant lineup change for the remainder of the season. This is a terrific opportunity for mates to embrace the challenges of competing higher in the lineup and developing necessary skill sets to be successful.

I am excited about where we are right now at the end of February. The boys know that the month of March separates the contenders from the pretenders. We have been through this before. I sense their belief and commitment. Today is the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. A bunch of college kids who worked, dreamed, prepared, and played their butts off for each other to do what people outside the locker room thought was impossible. They did it. Why not FAU?

We are back at the Reef on Sunday, March 7th for a 2 p.m. start. Counting on seeing you there!

Go Owls!

February 16, 2010

We had our second consecutive productive road trip this past weekend. We went to Tampa to battle UT-San Antonio and the unusual, frigid Florida winter weather. We practiced at FAU Friday before leaving on the road trip due to the heavy rains sweeping the state. A delightful team dinner at the OG (Oliver Garden) solidified the team's preparation for Saturday's 1pm match.

Saturday morning's warm up was loose and purposeful. The boys were in a good place. By match time the temperature was in the low 50's but with no wind. Doubles started and ended promptly for us at No. 3 doubles. They outplayed us. And the same was taking place at No. 1 doubles. However, we made a key adjustment and continued to compete. Our No. 2 doubles team was in control and had some opportunities to stretch the lead but did not capitalize. This came back as the proverbial bite.

Our No. 1 doubles team scrapped and clawed back in the match. We had 3 break points to pull even and swing the momentum in FAU's favor for the first time in doubles. But UT-SA delivered with two aces and a forcing error to eradicate the Dirty Bird momentum. They served it out and clinched the doubles point.

Our boys regrouped. We were calm, confident, and determined to show UT-SA that we had better tennis and competitive skills then we just demonstrated. We won 4 of the 6 first sets and this set the tone for the rest of the wintry afternoon. We won 5 of the 6 singles matches with senior Dan Vardag clinching the team point for us at No. 4 singles.

The boys have won two in a row and now stand at 3-2 on the season. We have 11 consecutive home matches starting this Friday at 2 p.m.! We renew our annual rivalry with the Knights of UCF. The last three seasons have been decided by 4-3 scores all in favor of UCF. Needless to say, the familiarity of the coaches and the players, the honest and passionate competitors on both sides make this a must see match for all FAU fans and college tennis enthusiasts.

So get on out to Patch Reef Park by 2pm this Friday, February 19 to help the Dirty Birds Rock the Reef!

February 10, 2010

What an exciting weekend for our boys! It's always a challenge to load up in the vans and take on a perennially top 10 team in the Gators and the following day compete against an energetic, talented, and pesky UNF team.

Our assistant coach, Brock Tregellas, and I were talking at the start of the weekend about how we will know a lot more about our team by the start of the Super Bowl. We were missing one of our starters and team chemistry alchemist, Dan Vardag due to an illness. It was time for our team and individuals to grab the moment. And there were plenty of moments to grab!

At UF, we got handed it to us pretty good at 2 and 3 doubles. But we bounced back in less than 24hours at those positions. That's resiliency! 1 doubles was on the doorstep of a monstrous upset but as we kept knocking the nationally ranked Gators team kept answering. We came up short blowing their house down.

Singles was a learning experience for us. They jumped on us quick as champions do. But we persevered and at one point were in control of 3 courts and battling back on the fourth to force a third set to pull off the team upset. It was not to be our day on the scoreboard but it was in terms of emotional and mental knowledge. We were a better team by 4:30pm on Saturday, February 6.

Now, it was time to prove it against the Ospreys. It always feels like a conference match when the battle of the birds collides! The returning guys knew it was cool to see our newbies experience it. It was a battle on every court. UNF is well coached and always bring the juice to every match. The Dirty Birds of FAU rose to the occasion. We got the doubles train rolling again and swept every court for the first time this season. This was an important goal for our team to reach.

The singles courts provided plenty of excitement. UNF evened the match at 1-1 but then Joshua Scholl and Marc Abdelnour stretched the lead for FAU to make it 3-1. Then UNF made it 3-2 but 3 minutes later at 1:13pm Derek Madon served out the match at 5 singles and captured the team victory for the Dirty Birds! He was down in both sets but persevered and battled his way to his first clinching team point of his new collegiate career. It will not be his last...

We are back on the road this weekend versus UT San Antonio at Tampa. So to the Dirty Bird nation in Tampa come out and make some noise! First serve is at 1pm at the USF tennis complex.

February 2, 2010

Our Owls are preparing to make another jump in our competitive performance against two Florida schools. This Saturday, the 6th we visit the 11th ranked UF Gators. This is the first ever match between the Owls and Gators! Let's go Dirty Birds!!! Then on Sunday morning, the 7th, battle the UNF Ospreys.

We had a challenging and productive week of training since our last match versus that school down south. The January 21 prime time match up at the University of Miami was a tough one. We came up short in doubles but continued to battle in singles on all the courts. Miami was impressive with their inspired and consistent play on every court. We had many opportunities that we are learning from. We have 18 matches left this regular season in which we can demonstrate our ability to control our nerves, mind, and heart to help us finish points, games, sets, and matches.

So after the first 2 weeks of the spring season we had objective feedback. We observed and battled 2 top 15 teams the first week of the season in singles competition and then a dual match versus a top 20 team! This is terrific for us as coaches and as athletes. It is imperative we maintain perspective--where we came from, where we are, and where we are headed. This is our journey in becoming the best we can be!


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