HIGH POINT, N.C. - The men’s tennis team at Queens University of Charlotte comes into the 2012 season with the bullseye on their backs being voted the leagues preseason favorite. Christian Lee-Daigle, reigning Conference Player of the Year, is riding high after winning the Conference Carolinas individual title for the third time in a row and barreling his way through his opponents at the ITA Regionals this fall to take first place. In addition to Daigle returning, Joshua Bloch and Raahil Dhruva are two strong players that will also be back to help Queens. Pfeiffer University was selected eighth in the annual poll.
The Royals are coming off of an undefeated 2011 conference season at 8-0 and 15-3 overall mark. Queens took both the regular season and conference championship trophies and hope that with additions to this year’s squad it will make for improved play of the middle and bottom half of their lineup.
“We are pleased with the selection, but know that it will be a tight race this year in a far improved conference,” commented reigning Head Coach of the Year Brett Karpman.
Limestone College men’s tennis has been picked to finish second overall in Conference Carolinas. The Saints are coming off a 17-6 season a year ago that included runner-up finishes in the regular season and the conference tournament as well as 13 straight wins from February 25 through April 7. Of their six losses, two came to eventual champion Queens late in the season and the other four were against stiff competition early on against, Peach Belt opponents No. 16 Lander, USC-Aiken and Augusta State and South Atlantic member Wingate.
After nearly winning the regular season and advancing to the Conference Carolinas Tournament finals, Limestone returns two of their top three players and six overall heading into 2012. Senior Mike Stephenson anchored the No. 2 singles position last year with a 15-3 record in that spot and 17-3 mark overall and is expected to be among the Saints top players once again.
Junior Rafael Ferla played at No. 3 singles most of last year, posting a record of 15-3 at that position and 17-4 overall. Stephenson and Ferla paired together in doubles for the better part of 2011 and produced a stellar 16-2 record, all at the No. 2 spot. Overall, Ferla was 17-5 in doubles action while Stephenson was 16-6.
Mount Olive College brings back four starters from last year’s squad, which was ranked No. 44 in last year’s ITA Year-End National Top 50 Poll. The Trojans posted an overall record of 12-8 and finished fourth in the conference standings with a 5-3 mark.
Diogo Sender was named to the 2011 All-Conference Carolinas second team and is one of three returning players who earned Player of the Week honors last year. Akio Mariano and Gabriel Santana were also Conference Carolinas Player of the Week winners in 2011. Murilo Pelegrino was a full-time doubles starter and part-time singles starter last year.
The Trojans are coming off a strong fall, which saw returner Brahm Moolman combine with Henrik Falkenberg for a doubles title and Santana win a consolation singles title at the Conference Carolinas Fall Tournament. Mount Olive also captured first and second place in doubles at the Methodist University Tournament as Mariano teamed up with newcomer Edgar Bub for the title, while Santana and newcomer Rik Wolthuis were runners-up.
Rounding out the men's tennis preseason poll 4-11 is: Lees-McRae, North Greenville, Barton & King (tied), Pfeiffer, Coker, Erskine, and Belmont Abbey respectively.
Men's Tennis Overall Preseason Poll (First Place Votes)
1. Queens - (7) 89
2. Limestone - (2) 86
3. Mount Olive - (1) 84
4. Lees-McRae - (1) 69
5. North Greenville - 52
T6. Barton - 50
T6. King - 50
8. Pfeiffer - 45
9. Coker - 39
10. Erskine - 25
11. Belmont Abbey - 16
Men's Tennis Preseason Poll (Breakdown by Division)
2. Mount Olive
3. North Greenville
6. Belmont Abbey