UNCW Men, W&M Women Headed To NCAA Tennis Tourney
CAA men's tennis champion UNCW and CAA women's tennis champion William & Mary learned their first-round opponents for the NCAA Tennis Championship.
UNCW, ranked 53rd in the ITA poll, will face No. 17 South Carolina in Durham, N.C., when the NCAA Regionals get under way on May 10. William & Mary, ranked 48th by the ITA, will meet No. 25 Texas in Charlottesville, Va. in the first round on May 11.
The Seahawks, 18-4, enter NCAA play as one of the nation’s hottest teams with a 10-match winning streak. UNCW is making its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five years, including three as CAA champions (2009, 2011, 2013).
UNCW is seeking its first NCAA Tournament victory. The Seahawks made their post-season debut on May 8, 2009, and fell to No. 26 Virginia Tech, 4-2, in Athens. The Seahawks then dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 23 Auburn on May 13, 2011, in Athens before a 4-1 setback to No. 17 Tennessee last May in Chapel Hill.
UNCW and USC will be joined in Durham by the host Blue Devils, ranked ninth nationally, and Coastal Carolina. Duke will be the top seed at the site, followed by South Carolina, UNCW and Coastal.
UNCW played six teams that made the NCAA Tournament (Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Florida, Georgia State, N.C. State and South Carolina) during the regular season, compiling a 2-4 record against the group. The results include a narrow 4-3 loss to the Gamecocks on Feb. 20 in Columbia.
The Seahawks climbed as high as No. 37 (Feb. 19) in the ITA rankings. Sophomore Rafael Aita is currently rated 53rd in singles and 51st in doubles with Sam Williams. UNCW’s top doubles team of Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider is rated No. 27. Six Seahawks bring NCAA Tournament experience to the USC match. Aita, Blank, Cooprider, Zach Hubltiz, Pedro Mol and Kaue Pereira have all competed in the NCAA’s.
After racking up a 17-5 record and the program’s 22nd CAA championship, William and Mary is headed to Charlottesville for the first and second round of the NCAA Championships at the Snyder Tennis Center, May 11-12. The Tribe earned its 19th NCAA bid overall and 15th in the last 19 years by virtue of the CAA’s automatic bid following the program’s league title on April 21. W&M will face Big 12 Champion and No. 25-ranked Texas in the opening round on Saturday, May 11, at 9 a.m.
The host and No. 14-seeded Virginia Cavaliers will play Northeast Conference Champion Fairleigh Dickinson in the other first round match-up at noon.
Winners of three straight and five of its last six, the Tribe was ranked as high as No. 25 this season and is currently No. 48 in the latest ITA national rankings, released on April 23. The Tribe captured the CAA title with a 4-0 win over UNCW on April 21. W&M owns a pair of top-30 victories on the season, knocking off then-No. 19 Mississippi, 4-3, on Jan. 22 and then-No. 30 South Carolina, 4-3, on Feb. 17.
The Green and Gold lineup features five All-CAA players. Junior Maria Belaya was named the CAA Player of the Year and following the league championship was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the event. Freshman Leeza Nemchinov was the CAA Rookie of the Year and a First-Team All-CAA choice in singles along with Belaya and senior Anik Cepeda. Juniors Jeltje Loomans and Hope Johnson garnered second and third-team all-league honors in singles as well. Belaya and Loomans, who are ranked No. 11 nationally in doubles, comprise a First-Team All-CAA pair, while Cepeda and Johnson were named first-team all-conference in doubles as well for the second time.
Texas is coming off its second straight Big 12 Championship and holds 17-10 on the campaign. The Longhorns upset No. 17-ranked Texas Tech in the Big 12 semifinals on the way to the league crown. UT has won seven of its last eight matches entering the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorn lineup features a pair national top-40 singles players in No. 33 Breaunna Addison and No. 39 Aeriel Ellis. Addison and Noel Scott combine to comprise the No. 18-ranked doubles team in the country.
The winner of the first-round matches in Charlottesville will square off on Sunday, May 12, at 1 p.m., for a spot in the NCAA Round of 16.
Three UNCW men's players were also selected to compete in the NCAA Championship individually. Junior Rafael Aita, the 2013 CAA Player of the Year, will compete in the 64-player singles tournament, while the Seahawks' top tandem of seniors Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider will battle in the 32-team doubles competition.
Aita, who is ranked #53 nationally in singles, has a 15-5 record, while Blank and Cooprider, who are ranked #27 in the nation, have a 12-4 mark.
Two W&M women's players will also compete in the NCAA individual championships. Junior Maria Belaya, the 2013 CAA Player of the Year, will compete in singles and will team with Jeltje Loomans in the doubles competition.
Belaya is 21-11 in singles this season and has been ranked as high as #116 nationally. She and Loomans have a 22-4 record and have been ranked as high as #2 in the nation.
The singles and doubles competitions will be held May 22-27 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill.