January 25, 2010

Erskine Women’s Tennis Team Stays Atop Preseason Poll: Lees-McRae Second

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Erskine College has maintained the top spot in the preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches for the fifth consecutive season. The Flying Fleet also earned their fifth consecutive preseason national ranking in the Division II ITA National Preseason Poll at No. 42.

Last year, Erskine College won their fifth consecutive regular-season and tournament championships, but not without some adversity. The Flying Fleet suffered their first conference loss in five years finishing the season at 11-1 and 18-7 overall.

Erskine returns its two top single players in Tessa Rheault and Britton Bignon, both earned All-Conference and All-Tournament honors last season. Nikki Miller also returns in the No. 6 singles spot. Erskine will need its four outstanding freshmen in Hannah Fisher, Bridget McKenna, Abby O'Reilly and Victoria Stephens to contribute significantly this spring for the Flying Fleet to win a sixth consecutive Conference Carolinas Championship.

Lees-McRae College places second in this year's preseason poll. The Lees-McRae College Lady Bobcats return four starters from a record year in 2009 where they finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first place in the conference and narrowly missed making the NCAA Tournament with an 8-1 league and 16-7 overall record.

Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, Gabriela Celi hopes to continue her success from her 11-0 record in conference singles play from last year. As the team's number one singles player she started the fall season by winning the conference 2009 Singles Fall Tournament.

Christine Vanard returns at the number two position and currently sits ranked 13th in the Southeast Region and lost to Celi in the conference 2009 Singles Fall Tournament. Last season she was a 2009 First team All-Conference member with a 12-0 record in conference singles play. Vanard and Celi will be joined by Lyndsay Pegram, Cameron Joye, Brianna Fulp, and transfer Maria Andrade.

Mount Olive places third in this year's preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches. Mount Olive returns four starters from last year's squad, which advanced to the NCAA Division II Women's Tennis Championship for the first time in nine years and captured a share of the Trojans' first-ever Conference Carolinas' regular season championship. Mount Olive was the No. 1 seed in last year's Conference Carolinas Tournament and advanced to the championship match.

The Trojans return a pair of All-Conference Carolinas selections in juniors Camila Kurebayashi and Sofia Medeiros. The two combined for a 13-5 record in conference singles matches. Medeiros is a two-time all-conference selection.

Also returning is senior Jessica Souza, who played No. 1 singles and doubles last year. She was named to the All-Tournament Team at last year's conference tournament. Also returning is sophomore starter Pietra Viana.

Rounding out the Coaches Preseason Poll 4-11 are: Queens, Limestone, Anderson, Pfeiffer, Coker, Barton, Converse, and Belmont Abbey respectively.

Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll

(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Erskine College (4) 94

2. Lees-McRae College (5) 90

3. Mount Olive College (1) 77

4. Queens University of Charlotte 70

5. Limestone College 62

6. Anderson University (1) 59

7. Pfeiffer University 46

8. Coker College 42

9. Barton College 35

10. Converse College 19

11. Belmont Abbey 11