No. 42 Seahawks Begin Spring With Troy
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - With three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four years, the UNCW men's tennis team knows a fourth berth is certainly within reach. That journey starts Sunday with the spring opener against Troy at the UNCW courts.
UNCW entertains the Trojans at Noon and then goes back-to-back, with Appalachian State visiting the courts Monday at 1 p.m. Troy opens its spring slate Friday with a match at Presbyterian in Clinton, S.C.
"We're very excited about our upcoming spring season," said sixth-year UNCW Head Coach Mait DuBois. "It's a very special situation when you return an entire team, especially one that enjoyed as much success as it did last year. I feel very good about the progress that we made over the fall and our two new additions that will be joining us this spring. I believe we have taken strides forward in every position and I look forward to getting our season under way. "
The Seahawks have emerged as one of the CAA's top teams, advancing to the NCAA's in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The impressive run includes CAA titles in 2009 and 2011.
The Seahawks return senior leaders Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider to anchor a team that remains intact following a 17-7 season last spring. The season-opening match with Troy will be a good test early for DuBois and his team.
"Troy is a team we saw last year and is a very strong and well coached program," said DuBois. "They return most of their team from last year and have made three strong additions. I think they will be stronger than last year, and will be a good early test for us to see where we are."
UNCW is ranked 42nd overall and four players earned recognition recently 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.
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 reached the quarterfinals of the ITA Regionals and led the team in wins during the fall season.
UNCW also has two doubles teams in the rankings. Cooprider and 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 No. 1-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.
DuBois has augmented his returning group with two international players who could make an immediate impact - Christiaan Van der Burgh of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and Santtu Leskinen of Helsinki, Finland.
The 6-3, 175-pound Van der Burgh has been ranked as high as 10th in the South African men's rankings, a group that includes the country's top players and many who reside in the top 200 of the ATP.
Leskinen, a 6-1, 165-pounder, won three Finish U-18 championships and rose to 397th in the ITA World Rankings. He represented Finland in the U-18 European Championships and won four ITF doubles event.