BUCKHANNON -- Despite some major shifts in one poll and a string of wins over ranked teams, the West Virginia Wesleyan men's tennis team remains at No. 4 in both the NCAA and ITA Regional polls released today.
The Bobcats concluded the season with an 18-4 overall record and share of the MEC regular season title after finishing conference play at 6-1. The 'Cats won four of their final five ranking matches to close the season, capped by a 7-2 road win at rival University of Charleston this past Sunday.
The win earned the Bobcats the top seed in this weekend's MEC Tournament, as well as a bye in the first round.
"We have positioned ourselves pretty well going into the NCAA regional selection process," said head coach Marc Walters, now in his fourth season at the helm. "We can do no worse than second in our tournament, and that should get us a bid into the regional. The other semi-final teams are on the bubble with a loss, so it's nice being on the top half of the draw for a change."
If the seeds hold true to form, Charleston and West Liberty will likely battle in the semi-finals on the other side of the bracket. Wesleyan would meet the winner in the final on Sunday for the MEC tournament title. The winner receives the conference's automatic bid into an NCAA sub-regional, while the runner-up and third place team will await the selections on Monday for an at-large berth.
Each sub-regional is made up of three teams, thus a total of six teams will get into the NCAA First Round field in the Atlantic Region. The Bobcats have been to the NCAA event in each of the past nine seasons.
The Atlantic Region, consisting of the MEC, PSAC, and CIAA conferences, also features independent Bluefield State, a powerhouse team which is likely to be the top seed in the NCAA regional and the host for a regional playoff site, featuring the No. 4 and No. 5 teams.
The No. 2 team in the regional poll will also host the second regional, with No. 3 and No. 6 meeting in the first round match-up.
Today's NCAA poll had Bluefield State, Edinboro, West Liberty State, Wesleyan, Chowan, and Mercyhurst listed as the top six teams in that order.
Charleston was No. 7, while Shaw was at No. 8. Each would likely need to make some noise in their conference tournaments to get into the NCAA field.
The ITA Poll was much different, with Chowan coming in at No. 2, up three spots from fifth last month. Bluefield State, ranked in the national top 50, remains No. 1, with Edinboro and Wesleyan next at No. 3 and No. 4. West Liberty dropped to fifth from third, and Mercyhurst held onto the six spot.
Three Bobcat players show up in the individual rankings for singles, and one doubles team makes an appearance.
Sabate and partner Ferran Berga, 14-10 overall at the top doubles position for Wesleyan this year, have the No. 9 ranking in doubles.
"It's nice to see their names in there, especially since we have played so many of the top ten teams in the region," said Walters. "But our guys also know the rankings are a little hard to quantify, and in the end it is just about being as tough as you can for any opponent you play. We want to be that team that nobody likes to play because they know it is going to be a three hour, miserable, and painful match for them. That is what makes us tick,and it is what we are about from top to bottom."
"ITA RANKINGS as of April 20, 2016:
|4||West Virginia Wesleyan|
|7||University of Charleston|
|10||Virginia State University|
|1||Jacob Carey||Bluefield State|
|2||Nenad Terzic||Mercyhurst University|
|4||Alec Foote||University of Charleston|
|5||Alexander Rudenco||Bluefield State|
|6||Farid Hajizada||Chowan University|
|7||Baptiste Perrin||West Libersity|
|8||Anthony Braem||Bluefield State|
|9||Sultan Kenes||Virginia State University|
|10||Mateusz Izycki||Chowan University|
|11||James Gammel||University of Charleston|
|12||Anthony Michael||Virginia Union University|
|13||Santiago Guiterrez||West Liberty|
|14||Nathan Sabate||West Virginia Wesleyan|
|15||Jacob Rendon||West Virginia Wesleyan|
|17||Aziz Yuldishev||Bluefield State|
|18||Andrew Ponder||West Liberty|
|19||Ramon Rodriguez||West Virginia Wesleyan|
|3||Perrin/ Gutierrez||West Liberty State|
|6||Foote/Gammell||University of Charleston|
|9||Sabate/Berga||West Virginia Wesleyan|
Pictured : Ferran Berga gets some direction from head coach Marc Walters in a match earlier in the spring in Morgantown at the Ridgeview Racquet Club.