WILMINGTON, North Carolina – For the fourth time in the last five years, the UNCW men’s tennis team will compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kick-Off Weekend with an opportunity to advance to the governing body’s premier indoor championship.

The 44th-ranked Seahawks travel to Gainesville, Fla., for the second straight year and join No.14 Florida, No. 35 Florida State and No. 38 TCU in the bracketed event at UF’s Linder Stadium. UNCW previously participated in the ITA Kick-Off in 2010 (Palo Alto), 2012 (Los Angeles) and 2013 (Gainesville).

The Seahawks opened their spring season last weekend by downing North Carolina rival Appalachian State, 5-2, at home.

“We’re very excited about qualifying again for the regional of the National Indoors,” said seventh-year UNCW Head Coach Mait DuBois. “Anytime you’re playing for an opportunity at a national championship it is a great opportunity and this team really enjoys playing in the big matches.  To make strides forward in college tennis, I believe it has to do with how many shots against top teams you are able to get. What I like about this event is that we have complete control and the team that deserves to move on will get that opportunity."

"We played Florida last year and the match came down to a few critical points. While Florida came out on top, we took a lot from the experience. They have a lot of new faces this year and Coach Bryan Shelton always does a great job. We’re looking forward to another great match." 

In its sixth year, the ITA Kick-Off features 60 of the nation’s top teams competing at 15 different sites. Each site features four seeded teams. Florida (1), Florida State (2), TCU (3) and UNCW (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.

Seven players included in the ITA’s national rankings will compete this weekend in the Sunshine State. They include: Stephane Piro, Florida, No. 29; Raphael Aita, UNCW, No. 42; Eliott Orkin, Florida, No. 53; Maxx Lipman, Florida, No. 109; Cordon Watson, Florida, No. 111; Michael Alford, Florida, No. 116; Facundo Lugones, TCU, No. 118.

Overall, seven ranked doubles teams are set to compete. They include: Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez, Florida State, No. 9; Nick Chappell and Will Stein, TCU, No. 11; Gordon Watson and Elliott Orkin, Florida, No. 13; Sam William and Rafael Aita, UNCW, No. 15; Stephane Piro and Florent Diep, Florida, No. 34; Florent Diap and Michael Alford, Florida, No. 43; Stephane Piro and Maxx Lipman, Florida, No. 45.

The host Gators alone have five singles players on their roster ranked and four doubles tandems in the ITA listing.

UNCW, meanwhile, brings a veteran team to the Sunshine State. The Seahawks advanced to their fourth NCAA Regional in five seasons last spring and upset No. 17 South Carolina in their opening match at the Durham Regional.

UNCW takes on Florida while Florida State battles TCU at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The consolation match is set for 10 a.m. and the championship match has a 2 p.m. start time on Sunday.

UNCW is the only Colonial Athletic Association school playing in the event and one of six state schools competing. Duke is serving as a host school, while Elon (@Virginia), N.C. State (@Tennessee), Wake Forest (@Vanderbilt), North Carolina (@Duke) are on the road for matches.

This weekend marks the fourth year the Seahawks have participated in the event. UNCW owns a 3-3 record in the ITA Kick-Off after splitting matches in its three previous trips. The Seahawks have beaten San Diego State (2010), South Florida (2012) and South Alabama (2013) in the Kick-Off Weekend.

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. In 2012, the Seahawks defeated South Florida in the opening round, 4-2, before falling to No. 1-ranked Southern Cal, 6-1, in the finale.

Last season, UNCW trimmed South Alabama, 5-2, before the Gators claimed a 4-2 decision in the championship match.

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.

2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Linder Stadium/Ring Tennis Complex
Gainesville, Fla.

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014
#1 Florida Vs. #4 UNCW, 10 a.m.
#3 Florida State Vs. #3 TCU, 10 a.m.

Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014
Consolation Match, 10 a.m.
Championship Match, 2 p.m.

UNCW’s Kick-Off Weekend History

2010 (Palo Alto, California/Host: Stanford)
Jan. 29, 2010 – Stanford 6, UNCW 1
Jan. 30, 2010 – UNCW 5, San Diego State 2

2012 (Los Angeles, California/Host: Southern Cal)
Jan. 28, 2012 – UNCW 4, South Florida 2
Jan. 29, 2012 – Southern Cal 6, UNCW 1

2013 (Gainesville, Florida/Host: Florida)
Jan. 26, 2013 – UNCW 5, South Alabama 2
Jan. 27, 2013 – Florida 4, UNCW 2