Seahawks Open Defense Of CAA Crown
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - The defending CAA champion UNCW men's tennis team has been featured in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's top 45 each week this season and will be the No. 3 seed - the same as last year during its championship run - in this week's 2012 Virginia 529 Colonial Athletic Association Tennis Championships.
The Seahawks, seeded behind No. 1 VCU and No. 2 Georgia State, are one of the favorites in the season-ending tournament at Old Dominion's Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center in Norfolk, Va. One year ago, UNCW brought back the school's second CAA title following wins over No. 6 James Madison, No. 2 Georgia State and No. 1 VCU.
UNCW opens defense of its title Friday at 8:30 a.m. with a quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded William & Mary.
"We have a reputation of being a very gritty, fiery team," said DuBois. "In this conference, you have to show up every match. It says a lot that the top three seeds are only separated by a few spots in the national rankings. That tells how strong this conference is."
VCU enters the tournament ranked 36th nationally, followed by UNCW at No. 41 and Georgia State at No. 54. The trio has combined to win the last six championships in the loop.
DuBois and his team climbed to as high as No. 33 in the rankings en route to a 15-5 overall record. The Seahawks played just two CAA matches during the regular season, defeating Old Dominion, 6-1, on April 1 and falling to Georgia State, 5-2, seven days later.
Led by sophomore Rafael Aita, the Seahawks have compiled a 76-43 singles record. The talented performer from Lima, Peru, has fashioned a 15-4 record and carries a national ranking of 89 to the Tidewater. Junior Kosta Blank has carved out a 15-5 ledger, including a team-best six-match winning streak, and junior Chris Cooprider, the Most Outstanding Player at last year's affair, also returns.
DuBois is pleased with the improved doubles play of the Seahawks, who have won the doubles point in 17 of 20 matches. "Doubles has been a real highlight for us. Chris and Kosta really have a good chemistry going since playing together three or four matches into the spring. We have more played with natural doubles ability and to play well in doubles with so many young guys is impressive."
The Seahawks are 42-12 in doubles this spring behind Blank and Cooprider. The tandem has won nine consecutive doubles matches dating back to March 11 and stand 16-3 at No. 1 doubles in 2011-12.
The men's championship gets under way Thursday with a pair of first-round matches when No. 8 Delaware meets No. 9 Drexel at 9 a.m., followed by No. 7 George Mason against No. 10 Hofstra at 11:30 a.m.
In quarterfinal action on Friday, UNCW takes on William & Mary, followed by No. 2 Georgia State against the Mason/Hofstra winner at 11 a.m. The afternoon session begins with No. 1 VCU facing the Delaware/Drexel winner at 1:30 p.m. followed by No. 4 Old Dominion versus No. 5 James Madison at 4 p.m.
Both men's semifinal matches will be played at 10 a.m. Saturday and the CAA men's championship match is set for 10 a.m. Sunday.