The women’s tennis team will start off this year with a ranking of No. 8 in the first national poll given by the ITA for the season. After winning back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships, the 2007 NCAA National Championship, and returning last season’s NCAA Singles Champion, the Jackets will attempt to maintain the already strong program that head coach Bryan Shelton has created.
After the loss of decorated seniors Kristi Miller and Whitney McCray from last season, Tech recruited several highly-ranked freshmen to fill in the missing void. Of these freshmen, Irina Falconi will come in to make an immediate impact. Falconi, a five-star recruit having experience on the WTA circuit, has been given this spring’s ranking of No. 23 in the nation. This past fall, Falconi finished with a singles record of 9-2 and a doubles record of 9-3 alongside junior Amanda McDowell. The doubles team of Falconi and McDowell has been given the ranking of No. 4 nationally.
McDowell, the 2008 NCAA singles champion, ranks No. 11 into the season after setting a school record 45 singles victories last year. Other ranked Jackets going into this season include No. 27 ranked senior Christy Striplin, No. 57 ranked sophomore Noelle Hickey, and the No. 46 ranked doubles team of sophomore Sasha Krupina and freshman Viet Ha Ngo.
Tech will participate in two more tournaments this weekend before opening the dual match season against Auburn on January 28.
While the women’s team waits to start match play in the New Year, the men’s team has already started in the Key Biscayne Invitational in order to tune up before dual match play begins. The outcome of the tournament, which was held from January 9th to 11th, posted a 14-9 singles record and 8-4 doubles record for the Jackets. Tech was able to see tough competition in the tournament, the reason being that the three teams that they faced are all ranked in the top 25 (No. 2 Texas, No. 16 Michigan, and No. 23 Alabama).
Tech’s sophomore Guillermo Gomez captured the title at the invitational with a 7-5, 6-3 victory on the last day over Michigan’s Jason Jung. Gomez is currently ranked number 14 in the nation and has combined for a 13-3 singles record in fall play. Look for Gomez to lead the Jackets this spring season as Tech’s top-ranked player and continue the success that he has already made for himself.
Freshman Kevin King will have an immediate impact and will probably be one of the top-seeded in the lineup this year behind Gomez. This 6-2, left-handed player was named a Five-Star Blue Chip recruit and finished with a ranking of 5th in the nation in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) junior singles. He has been the highest ranked American recruit ever to play at Tech.
The Jackets have a very young team and could return all players next season as well. There are no seniors playing this spring and only one junior in Austin Roebuck. Tech’s team should grow over this and next season and already have proved to be a force to take seriously after the strong showing against ranked teams this past weekend.