Alabama: With five returning players and a pair of talented newcomers on the Alabama Crimson Tide women’s tennis team, there will be plenty of hype surrounding the team this season. The Tide kicks off the season at the Duke Fab Four Invite in Cary, North Carolina, on September 14, and will look to improve upon its achievements from last year after reaching the NCAA Round of 32. The Tide ended the season with a No. 11 national ranking, and finished 10-1 in SEC play, as well as an 18-5 overall record, which was one of the best seasons in the program’s history. With so many players back, the strength of this team will be experience. The Tide returns its No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, Mary Anne Macfarlane and Alexa Guarachi, as well as Yasmeen Ebada, Antonia Foehse and Emily Zabor. The team also has two freshmen in Maya Jansen and Natalia Maynetto, who were two of the most highly touted recruits in the nation. Both players were the No. 1 ranked player in their state in high school, according to TennisRecruiting.net.
Arkansas: The Arkansas women’s tennis team enters the 2012-13 season in pursuit of a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. This season the Razorbacks will be led by an influx of highly touted young talent that will look to re-energize the roster. Arkansas brings in a strong four-member freshman class that was ranked No. 12 nationally, in addition to securing a key transfer. Senior Claudine Paulson returns to anchor the Arkansas roster, bringing three years of solid SEC experience. After a strong season at the No. 1 position in doubles last year she enters her senior season with a career doubles record of 66-39, and a 52-46 career record in singles. Sarah McLean comes to Arkansas for her sophomore season from Florida International University, spending last year primarily as FIU’s No. 1 singles player. The freshman class includes Kimberly-Ann Surin, coming off of her second straight appearance at the US Open Juniors Qualifying, in addition to two top junior international junior players, Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez and Yang Pang. Kristen Mee, a four-time High School state champion, rounds out the newcomers. Arkansas kicks off their fall schedule as a team with the Little Rock Classic, held Sept. 21-23 in Little Rock, Ark. The team will also host the Razorback Classic in Fayetteville on Oct. 5-7. Other highlights of the fall schedule include the ITA All-American, the ITA Central Regional, Houston Cougar Invitational, and the ITA National Indoors.
Auburn: Auburn opens the 2012-13 season and the second year under head coach Lauren Longbotham Meisner hoping to build on the success from the spring. The Tigers welcome four new players, but will lean heavily on three upper classmen for leadership of the young squad. Last season, the Tigers also won back-to-back league matches for the first time in nearly three years and reached three victories in the rigorous SEC for the first time since 2010. Auburn also lost four league matches by just one point in 2012, but will lean on senior captains Paulina Schippers and Plamena Kurteva and junior Jackie Kasler as it aims to flip those results in the new season. Also expected to contribute mightily will be sophomores Jen Pfeifler and Emily Flickinger, who split the duties at the No. 1 spot as freshmen. Pfeifler opens the season as the No. 102 player overall. She will compete with longtime doubles partner Kasler in the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif. in October. Lauren Levant, a native of Birmingham, is the third sophomore on the roster. Freshmen Ashley Kitchen and Pleun Burgmans are also expected to contribute early.
Florida: The two-time defending NCAA Champion Florida Gators return four letterwinners who were instrumental in both of their title runs, headlined by All-American and two-time NCAA Championships Most Valuable Performer Lauren Embree. The Gator senior, who is listed at No. 6 in the ITA Preseason Singles Rankings, enters her final collegiate year having won a combined 186 singles and doubles matches. Junior Sofie Oyen is ranked No. 32 in the national preseason rankings, while junior Alexandra Cercone is No. 49 and senior Caroline Hitimana is No. 78. On the doubles court, Embree is paired with freshman Danielle Collins and checks in at No. 15 in the ITA Preseason Rankings, while Cercone and Oyen are No. 29. Collins is ranked as the eighth-best freshman/newcomer in the ITA’s chart. Rounding out Florida’s seven-player roster for the fall season are junior Olivia Janowicz and freshman Brianna Morgan. The Gators will have two huge voids left by the graduation of two-time team captain Joanna Mather and junior All-American Allie Will, who joined the profession tour during the summer.
Georgia: Georgia returns five letter winners from the 2012 squad including a pair of All-SEC performers in Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase. Herring earned 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year honors after going 30-9 in singles and 26-12 in doubles with Kate Fuller. Kowase, Fuller and Lilly Kimbell are all entering their junior year with Fuller and Kimbell making Second Team All-SEC last year. In the final 2012 ITA rankings, Kowase was No. 58 followed by Herring at No. 82 and Fuller at No. 94. The Kowase-Kimbell doubles team made history in 2012 by going undefeated in dual matches. They registered a 24-2 overall record including 22-0 at No. 3. Georgia finished the year ranked sixth nationally after going 24-5. The Bulldogs made their 26th straight NCAA appearance under head coach Jeff Wallace, and for the 23rd time, the Bulldogs finished ranked among the top 10. Georgia went 9-2 in the SEC. The Bulldogs have a new assistant coach this season in Drake Bernstein. A member of the 2008 Georgia men's tennis national championship team, he returned to Athens in July after spending last year as an assistant with the Alabama women's tennis team. Bernstein earned a degree from UGA in 2011. Georgia opens the fall tournament season Sept. 21 on the campus of Michigan. Georgia will play host to one fall event, the Bulldog Classic from Oct. 12-14.
Kentucky: The Kentucky women’s tennis team will kick off the fall season Sept. 14-16 at the Muirfield Village Invitational in Muirfield, Ohio. The young 2012 squad returns with Southeastern Conference experience, focusing on continuing to raise the program’s standards. The young players received many awards from the 2012 season, including three freshman receiving All-SEC honors. Grace Trimble was rewarded for her efforts off the court and in the community, being selected to the SEC Community Service Team. Fellow freshmen Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Stephanie Fox were selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team after making an immediate impact upon their arrival at UK. Senior Jessica Stiles led the Wildcats throughout the past season, recording a 12-9 record as the No. 1 player and a 12-10 overall record in doubles. Khristina Blajkevitch posted a 5-8 record in 2012 as the No. 2, while also recording a 10-14 record in doubles on the year. Following a year in which the Wildcats improved by five wins from the previous season, Kentucky looks to use its four fall events to grow on recent improvements and gain more experience for the upcoming season. Following the Muirfield Village Invitational, Kentucky will head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Roberta Alison Fall Classic on Oct. 5-7. The Wildcats will compete in the ITA Regionals Oct. 18-21 in Lafayette, Ind., before finishing the fall in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Knoxville Hidden Dual Oct. 26-28.
LSU: The LSU Women’s Tennis program begins its first year under head coach Julia S. Sell, who brings valuable talent to the Tigers as the former USTA Regional Training Center National Coach from 2011-12. The former Julia Scaringe also served as Assistant Coach of the then three-time consecutive Big East Champion Notre Dame squad from 2008-11. LSU returns five letterwinners, including an experienced group of seniors. Returning for their final season are Ebie Wilson, 2011 All-Louisiana First Team selection, Kaitlin Burns, anchor in the lineup during the previous season, and Keri Frankenberger, 2012 team leader in dual match singles wins. The Tigers welcome sophomore standout and transfer, Mary Jeremiah, who racked up a 20-11 doubles record and 18-16 singles record as a freshman at Oklahoma State University.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss returns five of the top seven from last year’s team which earned their fourth straight NCAA Championship appearance. The Rebels are led by junior All-SEC honoree Caroline Rohde-Moe and junior Vivian Vlaar. Rohde-Moe recently captured the Norwegian Championships before the start of school. Also returning are sophomores Erin Stephens and Julia Jones, who were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, while Stephens made the All-SEC second team in 2012. Sophomore Iris Verboven, who played in several matches last year, and Paige Keating, round out the list of returnees. Santa Shumilina (Russia) will be eligible to start competing in the spring, while Swedish standout Marija Milutinovic will begin playing this fall. In the preseason ITA National Rankings, Rohde-Moe is ranked No. 55, Stephens is ranked No. 113 and Jones No. 116 in singles. Rohde-Moe earned a spot in the Qualifying Singles for the Riviera ITA All-American Championships in October, while Stephens and Jones will be in the prequalifying. The Rebels will begin the fall Sept. 14-16 at the Duke Fab Four Invitational in Durham, N.C.
Mississippi State: Mississippi State Lady Bulldog Tennis will enter the 2012-13 season with three fresh faces added to the roster. Sarai Flores of Mexico City, Mexico, Georgiana Patrasc of Bacau, Romania, and Lien Van Geel of Tessenderlo, Belgium, have all three joined the MSU squad as true freshmen, and will bring a new spark to the returning Lady Bulldogs: juniors Roseline Dion and Alexandra Perper, and sophomores Petra Ferancova, and Naomi Tran. Along side head coach Daryl Greenan and assistant coach Courtney Steinbock, Dion Ferancova, Perper, and Tran led the Maroon and White to a 7-14 record and several impressive wins in 2011-12, including the team’s 4-3 victory against No. 29 ranked Arkansas on their own home courts. Perper claimed individual ITA rankings throughout the spring season, notching wins against SEC opponents Auburn and Arkansas. Coach Greenan, Perper, and the rest of the Lady Bulldogs are looking forward to meshing as a unit through the opportunities that the fall season brings.
Missouri: Missouri enters its first season of Southeastern Conference play under the direction of second-year Head Coach Sasha Schmid. The Tigers are coming off a successful 2012 season, where the team ranked as high as 42nd in the nation, defeated five ranked teams and narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament. Mizzou returns three players from last season: Senior Maria Christensen, junior Rachel Stuhlmann and sophomore Alex Clark. The returners combined to go 42-30 last season while playing at No. 2 to No. 5 singles. The trio is joined by three newcomers: junior Cierra Gaytan-Leach, sophomore Elisa Gabb and freshman Madison Rhyner. Gaytan-Leach transferred from Texas, where she went 66-34 in her two years as a Longhorn. A top junior player in England, Gabb has reached No. 132 in the ITF singles rankings, while Rhyner comes to Mizzou as a top-100 recruit and a four-star athlete by TennisRecruiting.net. The Tigers open the fall season as they host the Aces for the Cure Invitational in Kansas City, Mo.
South Carolina: The South Carolina women's tennis team will have a new face directing the squad this season with head coach Kevin Epley, who was hired in June to replace longtime coach Arlo Elkins. Epley returns to the college game after spending the last four years working with a couple players on the WTA. He spent five seasons at William & Mary prior to his coaching stint on the pro circuit, leading the Tribe to a 96-40 (.706) record during the 2004 through 2008 seasons. The 2007 William & Mary club earned a No. 15 national ranking at season's end and reached the NCAA round of 16. His first head coaching job came at Fresno State where he went 55-19 (.743) from 2001 to 2003. Epley has five letterwinners returning from last year's squad that finished 16-9 with an NCAA second round appearance. The Gamecocks added two new players to their roster this fall with freshman Ximena Siles Luna of Peru and Alex Martin, a transfer from Texas who is from Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Jaklin Alawi returns for her senior year after playing the entire spring campaign at No. 2 singles. She led the team in singles victories with 25 and tied for the team lead in doubles win with 22. She ended the year ranked No. 95 in singles and No. 48 in doubles with Dijana Stojic, who graduated. Alawi was a second-team All-SEC performer in 2012 and picked up the ITA Carolina Region Player to Watch award. Other returnees for the Gamecocks include seniors Adriana Pereira and Josefin Andersson, who filled positions at the bottom of the lineup last season. Andersson also compiled 22 wins in doubles and had the most conference victories in doubles play with seven. Dominika Kanakova and Katerina Popova are back for their junior years after playing in the middle of the singles lineup last year. Popova led the Gamecocks in dual match victories with a 16-7 mark.
Tennessee: The University of Tennessee women’s tennis team returns to the courts in 2012-13 after a season of adversity. The 2011-12 season saw many highs and lows, records set, and players injured. But when all was said and done, the team added two All-Americans to it’s total as Kata Szekely and Natalie Pluskota reached the semifinals of the NCAA doubles tournament. Pluskota became a three-time All-American, while Szekely earned the first honor of her career. This year’s team will be young with Szekely, the lone senior, and Brynn Boren, the lone junior, leading the way for a sophomore class who spent most of the 2011-12 season battling injuries and an incoming freshman class with a lot of potential. Head coaches Mike Patrick and Sonia Hahn-Patrick will count on their experience to help out the young team. The Lady Vols will begin their season at the Furman Classic from September 21-23 where the Patricks will assess their team and ready them for upcoming fall tournaments including the All-American Championship, the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional and National Indoor Championship, the Dick Vitale Clay Court Classic and the Tennessee Fall Invite. Boren (No. 18, 5th SEC) and Szekely (No. 28, 6th) enter the season ranked both in singles and the duo combined for a No. 34 doubles ranking.
Texas A&M: The Texas A&M women’s tennis team returns its three top players from last year’s team that went 19-6 and was No. 17 in the final ITA ranking after advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Senior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year who advanced to the NCAA Singles quarterfinals and was a school-record No. 6 in the final ITA rankings, highlights the list of returners. Senior Nazari Urbina, a three-time All-Big 12 singles honoree who has received an at-large berth to the NCAA Singles Championship each of the last three years and was No. 60 in the 2012 final singles rankings, also returns, as does senior Wen Sun, who was No. 73 in singles and earned all-Big 12 honors in both singles and doubles in her first year with the Aggies after transferring from Tyler Junior College. Second-year head coach Howard Joffe, also welcomes freshman blue chip recruit Anna Mamalat, as well as Maryland transfer Cristina Stancu, who was No. 29 in the 2012 final singles rankings. Joffe also expects to add two highly touted freshmen prior to the spring dual season.
Vanderbilt: Nineteenth-year Vanderbilt women’s tennis head coach Geoff Macdonald leads his squad into the 2012-13 season with ambitions to reach the NCAA Tournament once again. The Commodores will be led by junior Lauren Mira, who earned Second Team All-SEC honors a year ago. Mira led the team last season with a record of 28-11. Vanderbilt also returns fifth-year senior Megan Gornet, who is the lone senior on the team. Returning sophomores Ashleigh Antal and Marie Casares will look to build off impressive freshmen campaigns in which the two registered records of 23-7 and 23-9, respectively. Joining the Commodores are four freshmen who will look to make immediate impacts. Frances Altick, Courtney Colton, Maggie Leavell and Georgina Sellyn all bring impressive resumes to Vanderbilt. Vandy kicks off the fall season at the Furman Fall Classic Sept. 21-23 in Greensville, S.C. The Commodores then round out the fall season at the Riviera All-Americans (Oct. 1-7), Roberta Allison Fall Classic (Oct. 5-7), Ohio Valley Regionals (Oct. 18-21), Memphis Invitational (Nov. 2-4) and Intercollegiate Indoor Championships (Nov. 8-11).