Men's Tennis Confident For ITA Kick-Off
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - If you're looking for proof of the rising prominence of UNCW's men's tennis program, look no further. For the third time in four years, the No. 42-ranked Seahawks have been invited to participate in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's prestigious 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
UNCW travels to Gainesville, Fla., Saturday and Sunday to join host Florida, South Alabama and St. John's in the bracketed event at UF's Linder Stadium. UNCW previously traveled to California for ITA matches in 2010 (Palo Alto) and 2012 (Los Angeles).
The Seahawks, ranked No. 42 by the ITA, opened their season last weekend with a pair of convincing shutouts over Troy and Appalachian State. Now it's time to step up in competition and sixth-year Head Coach Mait DuBois says his team is ready.
"We're looking forward to playing this weekend," said DuBois. "Anytime you are competing for a national championship, it's pretty exciting, and we're looking to make the most of this opportunity. We have played in the event before, so our guys know what to expect.
"Including the national indoors and outdoors, our two seniors (Chris Cooprider and Kosta Blank) have played in four NCAA Tournaments, and all of our returning players have played in at least two NCAA's. Being successful at this level is a process and going into the event with that kind of experience is a huge advantage for us."
In its fifth year, the ITA KickOff features 60 of the nation's top teams competing at 15 different sites. Each site features four seeded teams. Florida (1), UNCW (2), South Alabama (3) and St. John's (4) hold down the seeds at the Gainesville site. The winner of each site advances to the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship next month at the University of Washington.
The Gators and first-year coach Bryan Shelton have three players ranked in the top-125 and a doubles unit in the top-50. Junior Florent Diep, who played No. 5 last year for the Gators, is expected to play No. 1 singles for Shelton's team and is ranked 26th nationally after winning the USTA/ITA Southeast Region title in the fall. Bob van Overbeek played No. 1 last year in Gainesville and carries a No. 51 ranking into this weekend's tourney.
UNCW, meanwhile, brings a confident team to the Sunshine State. Junior Rafael Aita went 12-3 in the fall and is ranked 37th, and Sam Williams is No. 121. The doubles team of seniors Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider is rated No. 10 and Williams and Aita are ranked 53rd.
Florida and St. John's open the regional competition at 10 a.m., followed by UNCW and South Alabama at 1 p.m.
"We have not played South Alabama, but we're very familiar with their players," added DuBois. "All of the teams in the field are very good. Regardless of who we play, we know we're going to have opportunities and it just comes down to taking advantage of those chances. I really like how our team has prepared for this and getting two decisive results in our first two matches gives us a lot of confidence."
UNCW is the only Colonial Athletic Association school playing in the event and one of four state schools competing. Duke is serving as a host school, while N.C. State is competing at the Ole Miss site and UNC Chapel Hill is traveling to Illinois.
This weekend marks the third year the Seahawks have participated. UNCW owns a 2-2 record in the ITA Kick-Off after splitting matches in its two previous trips.
In 2010, the Seahawks played in Palo Alto, Calif., and dropped a 6-1 verdict to top-seeded Stanford before rebounding with a 5-2 upset of San Diego State. Last year, the Seahawks defeated South Florida in the opening round, 4-2, before falling to No. 1-ranked Southern Cal, 6-1, in the finale.
Updates on the event may be found via Twitter by following @UNCWMensTennis and @ITAtennis. Use the hashtag #ITAKickOff for all tweets or search "ITAKickOff" to find others who are tweeting about the event.
2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013
Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013