CHARLESTON, S.C. - Playing in the month of May has become an annual occurrence for the four-time defending Southern Conference champion College of Charleston women's tennis team.
The Cougars (25-5), who are currently ranked No. 64 in the latest Campbell's/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings released on May 8, will make their fourth-straight and fifth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance with a tough draw on their hands in the likes of sixth-seeded and No. 6-ranked Georgia (21-4) in a first-round match set for Friday, May 11 at 1 p.m. (ET) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
The winner will move on to face either No. 24-ranked Clemson (15-9) or No. 34-ranked Arizona State (11-9) in second-round action on Saturday, May 12 at 3 p.m. (ET). Live scoring, live video of each court and live chat will be available at: www.GeorgiaDogs.com.
It has been a year of milestones for the Cougars as they enter the NCAA Tournament tied with No. 3-ranked Duke with the most victories (25) in the country and among the 64-team field. CofC was also ranked as high as No. 60 in the nation, which tied a program best, and notched their first 25-win campaign in school history.
"Those 25 wins are great and we are very proud of that accomplishment," CofC Director of Tennis Angelo Anastopoulo said. "But, our goals are now turned to the month of May and hopefully, picking up our first victory in the month of May."
As for postseason experience, CofC is 0-4 in all-time NCAA Tournament matches and would like to turn the corner and make the second round or further. However, the Cougars have drawn a top 16-seeded team in four of their five all-time appearances on each of their opponents' home courts including at No. 15 Florida in 2009, No. 9 Clemson in 2010 and No. 13 Tennessee in 2011.
The hosting Bulldogs have won two national championships in 1994 and 2000 under head coach Jeff Wallace, who is a long-time friend of Anastopoulo's. Both coaches are 20+ veterans in the business with Wallace in his 26th year at UGA and Anastopoulo in his 21st year at CofC.
"It will be a tough match," Anastopoulo said. "They were the finalists in the SEC, which is considered to be the top tennis conference in the country. We were right on the bubble of being a No. 3 (regional) seed with hopes of trying to win that first round and sneak up on the top seed to make the Round of 16. We are just doing it in the reverse order now.
"We arguably have one of the toughest matches from a rankings standpoint in Georgia as well as a very good Clemson team we played earlier this year and a talented Arizona State team. From the No. 1 seed to the No. 4 seed, it is one of the toughest regionals in the country. It will be fun to be surrounded by all of those good teams. It will be a combination of things for us to win that match. We will have to be at our best and are looking forward to the experience."
The winner of each four-team tournament site will advance to the NCAA Round of 16 hosted also by Georgia on May 17-22 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. The matches shall be regulation dual matches with three (3) eight-game, pro-set doubles played for one team point, followed by six (6) singles matches, each valued at one team point, played best of three sets. Regular tournament scoring (first team to four points) will be used and a 12-point tiebreaker will be played at eight games all in doubles and at six games all in singles.
With final exams over with and the team's last match having been played on April 23, a 4-0 win over top-seeded UNCG in the SoCon Tournament finals to earn the league's automatic berth, the Cougars are hungry and ready to hit the courts this weekend for competition.
"They have been practicing very hard," Anastopoulo said. "More than anything, this time together without the stress of academics, has given our players a chance to do some great team bonding, while at the same time trying to improve their tennis games. They've spent breakfast, lunch and dinner together along with going to the beach. It really has brought them a lot closer and gives them a chance to enjoy everything that Charleston has to offer. We are so thankful making it into the NCAA Championships has afforded us a couple of more weeks to practice to keep them together and motivated in hopes of next year duplicating what we did this year."