SKILLMAN, NJ - Courtesy of the ITA - The two-time defending NCAA Champion Florida Gators have picked up where they left off last season: sitting atop the ITA Division I Women’s Team Rankings. Florida will have to replace two of its top three players from last year, with Allie Will turning pro prior to the start of the 2012-13 season and Joanna Mather graduating. A couple of experienced veterans in Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen seem poised to step into the spotlight. Embree checks in at No. 5 in the ITA Division I Women’s Singles Rankings thanks to her title at the 2012 ITA/Riviera Women’s All-American Championships, while Oyen is the top-ranked player in this week’s rankings after a solid fall campaign.
The team that fell short against the Gators in last season’s NCAA Championship match, the UCLA Bruins, is ranked second to begin the year. The Bruins hope to build off of last season’s success, led by sophomore Robin Anderson, the 2012 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships women’s singles crown. A duo of Pac-12 teams, USC and Stanford, should also be in the mix for this year’s NCAA title, while the Duke Blue Devils are set to make another deep run in the post-season as well.
On the men’s side, Virginia has been chosen as the top team in 2013. The Cavaliers have made the NCAA Championship match the last two seasons, coming up just short against USC in both matches. However, returning the majority of players from last year’s team, the men from Charlottesville will look to bring home Virginia’s first NCAA title in school history. With three singles players and three doubles teams ranked inside the top 10 to start the spring, the Cavaliers appear deeper this season than ever before.
The Trojans of USC will have to fight on without Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen this year, as coach Peter Smith tries to guide his team to an unprecedented fifth-consecutive NCAA Team Championship. Veteran Ray Sarmiento and sophomore Yannick Hanfmann, who clinched both the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship and the NCAA Team Championship a season ago, should provide some stability for the Trojans. USC’s cross-town rival UCLA hopes to build off of a 2011-12 campaign that included taking down the Trojans in the regular season and reaching the NCAA Semifinals, while perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Duke, and Georgia are geared up for another successful season.
Double-Dip: 16 schools have both their men's and women's programs ranked inside the Top 25.
Conference Count: Men's Top 25: SEC – 8; Pac-12 – 5; Big Ten – 4; ACC and Big 12 – 3; Conference USA and West Coast – 1. Six different conferences placed at least one team in the Top 10, with the Pac-12 leading the way with three teams. Women's Top 25: ACC – 6; SEC – 5; Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 – 4; Big East and Conference USA – 1. The Pac-12 also had the most women’s team land inside the Top 10 with four.
USC, Duke Tops in Doubles: USC’s Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria have been virtually unstoppable so far this season, dropping a single set en route to an undefeated fall. The duo took home the 2012 ITA/Riviera Women’s All-American Championships doubles title in September before winning their second consecutive USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships doubles crown in November. With a 12-1 record this fall and three wins against Top 50 opponents, Duke’s Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler begin the spring season as the No. 1 men’s doubles team. It came as no surprise when the duo won the USTA/ITA Carolina Regional Championship and followed it up winning the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships doubles title without dropping a single set.
Notable Rookies: Several rookies caught the attention of the college tennis world this fall and have charged their way into the Top 30 entering the spring season. On the men’s side, four of the five freshman ranked inside the Top 30 hail from the ACC with Virginia’s Mac Styslinger leading the way as the top ranked newcomer, cracking the Top 10 at No. 8. Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck is the highest ranked freshman on the women’s side at No. 2 with Julia Elbaba of Virginia not far behind at No. 4 after a runner-up finish at the ITA/Riviera Women’s All-American Championships.
Back into the Mix: Although you will not find their names in this rankings release, be sure to keep an eye out for four familiar players who did not compete this fall. Winning both NCAA women’s singles and doubles titles, Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs will be back in action for the Cardinal. Last year she finished as the top ranked player and was also named the 2011-12 Campbell/ITA Player of the Year. Duke’s Beatrice Capra missed the fall season with an injury but finished last year as the No. 2 women’s player. She also won the consolation title at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships and was awarded the ITA Co-Rookie of the Year.
On the men’s side, two high profile players will be back on the courts in college action. Mitchell Frank of Virginia will be back with the Cavaliers after taking the fall season off. Frank, the 2012 ITA Rookie of the Year, boasted a 38-2 record last season and captured both the 2011 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships singles crown as well as the ITA Men’s All-American title. One of his two losses last season came at the hands of Ohio State’s Blaz Rola, another player who did not participate this fall and is set to return to college action. Last season Rola finished as the No. 5 ranked singles player and also claimed the three major doubles titles in college tennis: ITA All-American Championships, USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, and the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Making the Most of the Fall: Two players on both the men’s and women’s side moved up considerable spots in the ITA National College Tennis singles rankings from this fall. Sofie Oyen of Florida began the year as the No. 32 singles player but a productive fall season has boosted the junior up to the top spot and similarly on the men’s side, Peter Kobelt of Ohio State moved up 34 spots to claim the No. 1 ranking. Other Top 10 players that made significant jumps in the rankings were Lauren Herring of Georgia who went from No. 53 to No. 8 and Princeton’s Matija Pecotic who moved up 65 spots for a tie at the No. 2 spot.
Next ITA Rankings: Weekly team rankings begin on Jan. 22, with the exception the weeks during the ITA Division I National Team Indoor Championships. Singles and doubles rankings are published every other week starting Feb. 12.