KANSAS CITY, Mo. ---- The NAIA released its 2013 Men's and Women's Tennis Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Polls yesterday, with both Auburn Montgomery teams receiving their typical strong national recognition.
The defending national champion women were ranked No. 1 in the nation, receiving all 12 first-place votes, while the men's team was placed second, with two first-place votes.
"It is an honor to be ranked in these positions," Head Coach Rolando Vargas said. "But at the end of the day we have to show it on the court, perform the way we are capable of and play every match like it's the last one. We are all excited for the season to start."
All three players are currently ranked in the top-10 for singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. William is No. 1 after winning the NAIA National Championships in the fall, while Curtis is No. 5 and Zowczak No. 9. Curtis and Zowczak are also rated as the No. 3 doubles team in the nation.
Last year's runner-ups Embry Riddle are ranked second in the women's poll, followed by Brenau, Lindsey Wilson and Concordia (Calif.). William Carey (No. 6), Lee (No. 15) and Belhaven (No. 23) join AUM and Brenau as representatives from the Southern States Athletic Conference.
AUM's men's team returns all but one player from a year in which it finished fifth in the nation after making the NAIA Quarterfinals. NAIA First-Team All-American Nicolas Pinones-Haltenhoff is back for his sophomore season, while Second-Team All-American Bence Toth will be a senior. Josh Reason, who received honorable mention from the NAIA, returns for his junior year.
Pinones-Haltenhoff and senior Tim Hewitt, who will debut with the team this spring, are ranked as the No. 1 doubles team in the nation after winning nationals in the fall. Teammates Zinelabidine Jouini and Othmane Lalami are ranked 12th.
The team is also expected to be deep in singles, with Pinones-Haltenhoff (No. 2), Hewitt (No. 6), Lalami (No. 16) and Jouini (No. 33) all ranked in the top 50 by the ITA entering the spring.
Embry-Riddle took the top spot in the men's poll, receiving 8-of-11 first place votes. Vanguard, Lindsey Wilson and Concordia (Calif.) followed AUM in the top five. William Carey (No. 6), Belhaven (No. 12), Coastal Georgia (No. 23) and Lee (No. 25) joined the Warhawks as SSAC representatives.
Both AUM teams begin their season this Friday at Emmanuel College. The matches begin at 1 p.m.