HIGH POINT, N.C. - Erskine College has maintained the top spot in the women’s tennis preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches for the sixth consecutive season. The Flying Fleet returns five players from last season’s squad that went 17-8 overall, finished second in the conference regular season, and won the Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship for the sixth consecutive time. Last season was the first time in five years that Erskine did not win the regular season championship. Queens University defeated the Fleet 5-4, giving Erskine just their second conference loss in five years (75-2). Pfeiffer finished just outside the top three in the fourth spot.
Erskine returns their top five singles players that include three All-Conference members in junior Tessa Rheault, senior Britton Bignon, and sophomore Abby O’Reilly. Rheault is the Fleet’s top returning player and the reigning Conference Carolinas Player of the Year. Team captain Britton Bignon is a three time All-Conference honoree at the No. 2 singles spot, while sophomore Abby O’Reilly won the Conference Freshman of the Year award last season playing in the No. 3 singles position. In addition, Victoria Stephens and Nikki Miller will be joined by three outstanding freshmen in Corin Hallman, Kathryn Sailors, and April Horne to give Coach Calhoun Parr perhaps his deepest squad in his eleven year tenure.
Queens University of Charlotte finished the 2010 season with a 20-2 overall record and an 8-0 conference record to earn the Conference Carolinas regular season title. Falling to Erskine in the conference tournament championship, the Royals avenged the loss by defeating the Flying Fleet in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual champion and Southeast Region rival Armstrong Atlantic State.
Individually, First Team All-Conference member Elena Mileva and freshman Christina Rustscheff will be looked on to anchor the first and second flights. The Royals also return All-Conference Third Teamer Morgan Roberts along with Erin Williams, who combined for a doubles record of 38-11 in 2010. Royals head coach Brett Karpman is “eager to begin the season and build off last year’s success.”
Lees-McRae College capped a solid 2010 campaign with a semifinal finish in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, falling to eventual champion Erskine College after earning the third seed with an 8-2 record against league opponents during the regular season. The Bobcats posted a 13-8 overall record on the season, as Christine Vanard was named to the All-Conference Carolinas First Team.
“It’s hard to predict how the conference will play out this year,” said head coach Keith Turner. “A lot of teams, including ours, have lost key players from last year’s teams. Senior Christine Vanard is going to play a huge role for us this coming year. As one of the best players in the conference, we will need Christine to help get us out to quick starts in the singles and doubles matches. We have three new players in the lineup this year, and we will just have to see if they are up for the challenge.”
Rounding out the Coaches Preseason Poll 4-10 are: Pfeiffer, Mount Olive, Limestone, Coker, Barton, Converse, and Belmont Abbey respectively.