In previous years, the fields for the ITA Team Indoor have always been suspect, as the bids were largely based on teams' results from the previous year, and anyone familiar with the impact one or two players can have, whether going out or coming in, knows that didn't always result in the best 16 teams competing for the title. This year the ITA has implemented a qualifying tournament, with 15 teams earning their berths (the host schools--Illinois for the men and Wisconsin for the women--are automatically chosen) in what is being called the ITA Kick-off Weekend. At 30 sites around the country (15 for men, 15 for women), four teams will gather, with the team going 2-0 earning a berth in the mid-February ITA Indoor tournaments.
While the majority of these mini-tournaments, which are very similar to the first two rounds of the NCAAs, are Saturday-Sunday, some begin today and end on Saturday. For details on each, see the ITA's kick-off weekend home page. Also available on that page are the line-ups for all sixty teams, which is a very handy to have, as it saves going to each team's website for their roster, which doesn't usually give any clue as to the position a player is competing at. (These line-ups are not, of course, guaranteed; any illness or injury could result in changes.)
There were a few interesting items I noted: Freshman Alexandria Walters, who had been announced as a recruit at UCLA, is listed as playing No. 2 for Pepperdine. Ole Miss freshman Devin Britton, who reached the semifinals of the SEC Coaches Indoor, is playing No. 1 for the Rebels. Texas A & M has won the recruiting battle for Russian Alexei Grigorov, who is listed at No. 4 in their line-up. Duke freshman Mallory Cecil is occupying the No. 2 spot on a very deep Blue Devil team, while freshman Chelsey Gullickson, who had an outstanding fall at Georgia, will play No. 1 for the Bulldogs. With the return of Haythem Abid to the UCLA men's lineup after an injury kept him out last season, and the addition of Arizona State's Matt Brooklyn, Harel Srugo has dropped from his No. 1 position to No. 3 for the Bruins.
The Stanford men have a young top half of the lineup with sophomore Alex Clayton and freshmen Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher at the 1, 2, and 3 positions, and the Cardinal have more blue chips arriving in the fall. For the second straight year, Stanford has earned the top recruiting class ranking by the Tennis Recruiting Network, and this time it was unanimous. Click here for ranking order of the top 25 schools.
If you live anywhere near any of these 30 sites, please consider attending a match. It's great fun, and any comments you have are welcome on ZooTennis!
Friday, January 30, 2009