Seahawk Netters No. 42 In Preseason Poll
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - UNCW's national-caliber men's tennis team, fresh off its third NCAA appearance in four seasons, is ranked 42nd overall and four players earned recognition in the first release of the spring by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
It marks the first time the program has featured multiple players and doubles teams in the group's poll. UNCW opens the spring season on Sunday, Jan. 20, with a home match against Troy.
"I'm very proud of the recognition that we received from the ITA," said sixth-year UNCW head coach Mait DuBois. "I'm especially proud of the high team ranking and the fact that we have more players ranked than ever before as well as the highest rankings we have ever accomplished.
"The key to success in college tennis is depth and we have always prided ourselves on our strength from top to bottom. This past fall we did a better job of getting opportunities against the top programs and we made the most of those opportunities. "
In singles, junior Rafael Aita of Lima, Peru, is ranked 37th and sophomore Sam Williams of Bristol, England, is rated 121st in the NCAA Division I ranks. Aita went 17-4 in singles, mostly at the No. 1 position, last spring and was named the ITA Regional Player To Watch. Williams fashioned an 8-7 record in his first season with the Seahawks.
UNCW also has two doubles teams in the rankings. Seniors Chris Cooprider and Kosta Blank are rated 10th, while Aita and Williams are 53rd. The ranking by Cooprider and Blank, who went 18-5 last spring, is the highest ever for a UNCW doubles tandem.
Cooprider, from Denver, Colo., and Blank, from Winnipeg, Canada, reached the finals of the USTA/ITA Carolina Regional Championships in October, losing to 16th-ranked Raphael Hemmeier and Henrique Cunha of Duke in Cary, N.C. The pair also won the prestigious U.Va. Ranked+1 event in September by upsetting fourth-ranked Mac Styslinger and Jarmere Jenkins of Virginia.
"For our two seniors to be ranked in the top-10 nationally is really a huge and well-deserved accomplishment," added DuBois. "They had a strong fall and are still improving as a doubles team. They are as good as anyone in the country and it's something we have known for a while.
"Rafael also reached the highest singles ranking ever earned by a Seahawk, including a win over the No. 7 player in the country. Like many of our players, he continues to get better every week and I have enjoyed watching his development as a player. His maturity and work ethic continue to improve and that will be the keys to his success. We're very proud of him and this landmark he has set for our program."
The Seahawks have advanced to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years. UNCW captured Colonial Athletic Association titles in 2009 and 2011 and earned an at-large berth in 2012.