HIGH POINT, N.C. - Erskine College has maintained the top spot in the women’s tennis preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches for the seventh consecutive season. Erskine returns six players from last year’s championship squad, and is ranked No. 9 in the Southeast region according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Preseason Poll. Pfeiffer University was selected just outside the top three in fourth.
Last year the Flying Fleet went 18-5 and was undefeated in conference play at 9-0 in winning their seventh regular season conference championship in eight years. Erskine defeated Queens in the conference tournament championship match to claim their eighth consecutive conference tournament title and a berth to the NCAA DII SE Regional Tournament.
Erskine returns a number of top players from last year’s squad. The Fleet will be led by senior Tessa Rheault, a three-time 1st Team All-Conference honoree who is currently ranked 19th in singles in the Southeast region by the ITA. Sophomore Corin Hallman is back after an impressive year winning the top-tiered "A" flight in the Conference Fall Tournament for the second consecutive time. She also ran the table in conference play last spring going a perfect 9-0 at the No. 2 singles spot with a 15-4 overall record that earned her Conference Freshman of the Year and 1st Team All-Conference honors. The third returning all-conference player is junior Abby O’Reilly. The former Conference Freshman of the Year had a terrific season playing at No. 4 singles recording a 13-6 overall record while going 8-1 in conference play. Junior Victoria Stephens, last season’s conference tournament MVP, also returns along with senior Nikki Miller, sophomore April Horne, and newcomer Mika Goyette.
Queens has been picked to finish second overall in the annual Conference Carolinas preseason coaches’ poll. The Royals women’s tennis team is looking to continue with their successes from last season were they finished 8-1 in the league and 15-4 overall, finishing second in the regular season standings and runner-up at the conference championships.
The Royals had a positive showing in the fall with all but two players returning. 2011 All-Conference second team members Elena Mileva and Christina Rustcheff are key players for the squad, and the two of them paired with the remainder of the strong returning class have trained hard during the off season. The focus for Queens is on the ultimate goal of winning a conference title and returning to the NCAA Championships.
Mount Olive College returns four starters - including its No. 1 and No. 2 singles players - from last year’s squad, which posted an overall record of 14-7 to set a school record for highest winning percentage. The Trojans finished third in the regular season conference standings with a 7-2 record to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Marine Becker earned All-Conference Carolinas second team honors playing No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles. Becker’s doubles partner Patricia Guerdes also returns, along with last year’s No. 2 singles Pietra Viana and No. 5 singles Noelia Mora. Viana advanced to the doubles semifinals in two tournaments this past fall, each with a different partner: the Conference Fall Tournament with junior transfer Molly Lentini and the Fall ITA Southeast Regional with freshman Francesca Ceppi.
Rounding out the Coaches Preseason Poll 4-12 are: Pfeiffer, Coker, North Greenville, Barton, Limestone, Lees-McRae, King, Belmont Abbey and Converse, respectively.
Women's Tennis Overall Preseason Poll (First Place Votes)
1. Erskine - (7) 105
2. Queens - (2) 104
3. Mount Olive - (1) 98
4. Pfeiffer - 83
5. Coker - 72
6. North Greenville - 67
7. Barton - 60
8. Limestone - (1) 52
9. Lees-McRae - (1) 46
10. King - 41
11. Belmont Abbey - 34
12. Converse - 29
Women's Tennis Preseason Poll - Breakdown by Division
2. Mount Olive
2. North Greenville
6. Belmont Abbey