'09 NCAA Preview



COACH: John Whitlinger
‘08 FINISH: 13-9, 2nd Round NCAA Regionals
8 You can bet John Whitlinger & Co. have been champing at the bit to get their hands on Ryan Thacher and Bradley Klahn ever since the Cardinal inked the top-five recruits in November ‘07. Thacher, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound lefty who sometimes spars with a guy named Sampras, became the most sought-after recruit in the nation after rising to No. 1 in the 18s and reaching the Round of 16 at the ‘07 U.S. Junior Open. Meanwhile, Klahn, another southpaw, first stepped into the spotlight after winning the 16s at Kalamazoo. Both newcomers will immediately work their way into the heart of Whitlinger’s lineup along with Alex Clayton, Matt Bruch, Richard Wire and Blake Muller. This could very well be the best lineup in the college game and gives Stanford a bona fide shot at the national title, which would be its first in nearly a decade.

COACH: Peter Wright
‘08 FINISH: 13-11, 2nd Round NCAA Regionals
•Peter Wright hopes that Cal’s rise-to-the-occasion performance against Georgia, Illinois and Harvard at the preseason Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic is a sign of things to come. All-Pac 10er Kallim Stewart — who was named as the tournament’s Outstanding Player after an undefeated run that included a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over UGA’s Nate Schnugg — anchors the top of Wright’s lineup, along with Brazil’s Pedro Zerbini and freshman Nick Andrews (the son of former ATP pro Richard Andrews). Also seeing significant time in the starting lineup will be Frenchman Jonathan Dahan, Bulgarian-born Boxhidar Katsarov and former IT Junior Player of the Year Thai Tu.

COACH: Jay Udwadia
‘08 FINISH: 17-9
8 The WAC runners-up will look to climb in the rankings behind conference player of the year Rudolf Siwy (26-8/Czech Republic), Flavio Mollinedo (6-4/Brazil) and Pepperdine transfer Rikus de Villiers (South Africa). Jay Udwadia welcomes back most of his top performers from ‘07-’08, including Siddharth Alapati (22-7/India), Tejesvi Veerepalli (22-13/India) and Mirko Zapletal (19-10/Czech Republic). Udwadia returns for his fifth season after guiding the New York Buzz to the World TeamTennis title.

COACH: Michael Wayman
‘08 FINISH: 16-7
8 The Gaels compiled their best season in team history last year, coming within a match of winning the WCC Championships and reaching a program-best ITA ranking of No. 47. But without an automatic birth, SMC missed out on an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Although the bitter taste lingers, back-to-back WCC Coach of the Year Michael Wayman knows that by returning eight of 10 players from that team he’ll likely have another crack at it in ‘09. Among the returnees are Italy’s Andrea Zannoni (13-7 in ‘08), France’s Lucas Tirelli and Germany’s Achim Christner.

COACH: Bob Hansen
‘08 FINISH: 14-6, Round of 16 NCAA D3 Regionals
8 When a coach deems a 14-6 season in which his team was but a match short of the D3’s Elite Eight “disappointing,” you know he’s accustomed to winning national titles. And that’s exactly why NorCal Hall of Fame coach Bob Hansen — a post-season fixture who’s guided the Slugs to six D3 crowns (‘89, ‘95, ‘96, ‘98, ‘05, ‘07) — was so dismissive of UCSC’s ‘08 campaign. The good news is that Hansen lost only one senior to graduation. Max Liberty-Point comes into the spring season having won the singles at the ITA West Regional, where he also joined Ilya Gendelman to win the doubles. They’re joined by vets Jared Kamel, Max Ortiz and Mark Vartabedian.


COACH: Peter Bartlett
‘08 FINISH: 13-13
8 Thong Tu (whose brother is embarking on a collegiate career of his own just across the Bay at Cal) comes into ‘09 ranked among the top-25 players in the ITA’s West Region, a well-deserved honor for the senior who went 31-9 for the Dons at No. 1 last year. Tu will be joined by Israel’s Asaf Cohen, Norway’s Einar Hart and Austria’s Rainer Nachbauer. As a team, USF has notched a pre-season ranking of No. 67, marking the first time in the modern era that the program has opened a season nationally ranked. “We’re pleased to get some form of credibility from the ranking committees,” said 12th-year head coach Peter Bartlett. “But our main focus will be preparing our athletes for the start of the season and to continue as in the past to try and achieve the credibility with our results on the court.”

COACH: Matt Lucas
‘08 FINISH: 11-12
8 Once a Tiger always a Tiger. Matt Lucas takes over for Guido Baumann at UOP, jumping from the Tigers of Princeton to those of Pacific. Lucas spent the last three years as an assistant at Princeton. His charge will be to raise the status of a program that has struggled to a 14-30 mark over the past two seasons. UOP’s go-to guys include Renan Delsin, Artem Gramma and Vegerd Veskimagi.

COACH: Daryl Lee
‘08 FINISH: 10-13
8 With the loss of three seniors, the Aggies are going young. Back are Nic Amaroli, Kevin Liang, Nick Lopez, Boston College transfer Michael Reiser and The Lee Bros. — Hunter and Tyler (27 combined singles wins last year). But UCD skipper Daryl Lee has pulled in recruits Josh Albert, Chris Aria, Mickey Brown, Welshman Nick Hallchurch and Keanen McCarthy to assist the upperclassmen in shouldering some of the burden. Can they hold their own in the Big West?

8 Haythem Abid and Harel Srugo are the top two UCLA players this year and longtime Bruin coach Billy Martin is expecting big things from the two. He feels this is one of the strongest teams he has ever fielded.

“We were the underdogs in so many matches last year and I think that kind of helped in a way because you can go out and play a little looser,” Martin said. “It’s one of my worries this year to be quite honest because now we are going to be the favorites in a lot of matches. We need to have an attitude in matches that we aren’t playing to defend what we have, we’re playing to prove ourselves. That’s the attitude we had last year and that’s why I feel we did so well.”

Holden Seguso and Arizona State transfer Matt Brooklyn will switch off at the No. 3 and 4 spots while Maryland transfer Amit Inbar, Nick Meister and senior co-captain Michael Look will have to play consistently and improve every match for the Bruins to make a run at the national title. Throw in Ahmed Ismail and you have quite a battle for some valuable playing time.

“(Ahmed) came in and played a few matches at No. 6 for us last year and did well,” Martin said. “This is why I say that depth is going to be one of our real strengths this year. We essentially have eight very good players for six positions in the lineup.”

Depth is definitely the strength of this year’s team. “We have seven or eight really good players for six spots,” Martin said. “If for some reason we have an injury, and I really hope we don’t, there is going to be a really good player ready to step in and play for us at No. 6. So I think that depth is definitely one of our strengths.”

8 It’s a young team that coach Peter Smith rolls out this season along with a proven winner at the top spot. Three freshmen will play a significant role this season for the Trojans, who will go with reigning NCAA doubles champion Robert Farah at the No. 1 singles position.
Farah, preseason ranked No. 6 in singles, will try and repeat the NCAA doubles title he won with graduated Kaes Van’t Hof with new partner Steve Johnson, another Orange County native who is in his first year. The pair had a very successful fall season and come into match play ranked No. 2 in the nation. They finished runners-up at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships during the fall.

Jaak Poldma will play No. 2 and Abdullah Magdas No. 3 (ranked No. 64). Johnson is next in the lineup followed by two more freshmen, Matt Kecki and Daniel Nguyen. Junior Jason McNaughton will play a solid No. 6 while another freshman Andrew Kells has teamed with Poldma to form a strong No. 3 doubles team in the early dual season.

Brett Masi returns as Smith’s assistant and Eric Amend is the volunteer assistant coach. Ranked No. 6 in preseason rankings, the USC men are coming off a 2008 trip to the NCAA quarterfinals, where the Trojans finished the season with a 22-5 overall record.

8 Coach Adam Steinberg is hoping for another outstanding season from the top 20 ranked Waves. Bassam Beidas of Cairo is playing No. 1 and is backed up by another Egyptian, Omar Altman, and freshman Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico. Mahmoud Kamel plays No. 4, while freshman High Clarke (Brisbane),   Alex Moreno and local Danny Moss of Malibu round out the lineup.  The team owns wins over UCI, Cal Poly SLO, Denver, Miami and USD.

8 The Torero men are 5-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. The 50th ranked team faced a tough No. 6 USC to start the season. Sophomore Dean Jackson tallied the only point at No. 2 singles. At the ITA National Indoor Qualifier the Toreros scored a 4-2 win over No. 49 St. Mary’s. They won the doubles point and Jackson took the No.1 singles with a three-set win. Freshman Nicola Bubnic, playing No. 4, also won in three sets. Facing USC again they lost 4-0. The Trojans defeated them handily in the doubles and then won the  bottom three singles. The top three singles were suspended.

8 San Diego State men flew to Hawaii for the U. Hawaii Classic, losing 6-1 with Tim Endert at No. 5  collecting the sole point. They headed next to Texas for the ITA Kick-Off Tournament. Against Georgia Tech, Juan Gomez at No. 33, Endert at No.  5 and Andre Feliz at No. 6 all won their singles. Achim Ceban/Giovanni Vaglietti won the No. 1 doubles. The Aztecs scored a 5-1 victory over Utah, winning every match except the No. 2 singles. The 54th ranked Aztecs fought to a tough 5-2 loss to No. 4 UCLA. SDSU won the doubles point and in singles, Ceban won at No. 3, Gomez lost in a third set tiebreak and both Vaglietti and Endert also lost in three.

COACH: Manuel Diaz
‘08 FINISH: 27-3, NCAA Champions
8 UGA won its second straight NCAA title last May (its sixth overall), becoming the first team to repeat as D1 champs since ‘98. The loss of perennial All-American Travis Helgeson to graduation apparently was enough to knock the ‘Dogs down to No. 3 in the preseason ITA rankings, but head coach Manny Diaz is anything but short on talent. Among the returnees are Nate Schnugg, Jamie Hunt, Christian Vitulli and Josh Varela. Schnugg won a team-high 43 matches last year at the top of the lineup, including a 10-1 run record against SEC competition and a perfect 9-0 mark at the NCAAs. “At this point, it’s nice that people are keeping us near the top of the rankings, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Diaz. “We’re excited to get back on the courts.”

COACH: Kenny Thorne
‘08 FINISH: 13-12
8 A year after earning ITA Mideast Region Rookie of the Year honors, Guillermo Gomez (27-12 in ‘08) returns to lead a young Yellow Jacket roster at No. 1. The native of Alicante, Spain, has an explosive serve and owns wins over the likes of Georgia’s Jamie Hunt. Head coach Kenny Thorne will also look to Kevin King (the highest-ranked recruit to ever play on The Flats), Eliot Potvin, Serb Dusan Miljevic, Miguel Mugurusa and sure-handed lefty Ryan Smith to put up results. “We’ve been training hard and are excited about the tough schedule,” said Thorne.

COACH: Jarod Camerota
‘08 FINISH: 1-16
8 The Panthers all but fell off the map a year after posting a 19-5 mark and claiming the Colonial Athletic Association crown. One bright spot was CAA Player of the Year Nejc Podkrajsek of Slovenia, who returns after an 8-6 campaign at No. 1. Second-year skipper Jarod Camerota lost his No. 2 player in Anze Cevka, but welcomes back Frenchman Henri Mangin and UNC-Greensboro transfer William Adeimy. “It’s Nejc’s fourth year and he’s weathered a lot throughout his career,” said Camerota. “This year, he’ll probably take over a leadership role, helping the team collectively gather more wins.”

COACH: Justin Miles
‘08 FINISH: 9-13
8 Georgia Southern has gone global in a big way. Justin Miles’ roster stretches across the Atlas from Belgium (The Bekkers Bros. and Joris De Weerdt), Germany (Mark Paetz), Spain (Alain Garrido)), England (Jayraj Jadeja) and Ireland (Justin Flynn) to Brazil (Edio Castanhel) and Peru (Alonso Rodriguez) to the Bahamas (Matthew Sands) and even South Africa (Philip Prins). Prins and Gregory Bekkers earned All-Southern Conference accolades last year after posting a 9-6 record as a doubles tandem.

COACH: John Browning
‘08 FINISH: 19-7, NCAA D3 Runners-Up
8 Emory was once again a win away from the national tile, but for the second straight year the Eagles came up just short, falling to Washington University in the D3 title tilt. With the exception of Hardy Ehlers, John Browning’s starting roster remains intact with the return of Michael Goodwin (13-9), Mark Boren (17-8), David Caplan (15-5), Oliver Lopp (12-3) and Colin Egan (14-4), so there’s little reason to doubt yet another deep-into-the-postseason run for the Eagles, who last won the D3 national title in ‘06.


COACH: Amanda Augustus
‘08 FINISH: 21-6, NCAA Runner-Up
8 No. 2 Cal opens the season with the highest preseason ranking in program history after reaching its first-ever NCAA team final. With ‘06 NCAA singles titlist Susie Babos no longer at her disposal, second-year head coach Amanda Augustus will look to an increasingly international roster that includes Marina Cossou (France), Bojana Bobusic (Australia), Claire Ilcinkas (France), Marion Ravelojaona (France), Mari Andersson (Sweden) and freshman Jana Juricova (Slovak Republic) to lead the way. Cosssou recently captured the Cal Winter Invitational, while Juricova took the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in the fall. Augustus has also added NorCal standout Stephany Chang to the mix. Are the Bears ready to take the next step and win it all?

COACH: Lele Forood
‘08 FINISH: 22-5, Pac-10 Champions, NCAA Quarterfinals
8 Last year’s earlier-than-expected exit in the NCAA quarters was unfamiliar ground for Stanford — a powerhouse program that had captured five of the last eight national team titles. But Lele Forood’s Cardinal figures to be a contender again in ‘09 thanks to the return of four 20-plus-win starters — ‘08 ITA National Rookie of the Year/Pac-10 Rookie of the Year Hilary Barte (a team-best 30-8), Jessica Nguyen (28-10), Carolyn McVeigh (28-10) and Lindsay Burdette (23-14). Barte recently reached the final of the NCTC Classic in Indian Wells. Among Forood’s newest recruits is SoCal standout Logan Hansen, the ‘07 L.A. Player of the Year.

COACH: Simon Thibodeau
‘08 FINISH: 22-8, WAC Champions, NCAA Round of 16
8 Renata Kucerkova/ Anastasia Petukhova captured the ITA National Indoor doubles title in the fall, knocking off Notre Dame’s Kelcy Tefft/Kristy Frilling 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5). Not bad, considering they weren’t even the highest-seeded duo on their own team. That distinction belongs to three-time WAC Player of the Year Melanie Gloria and Tinesta Rowe, which means dual-match doubles points are all but a given week-in/week-out for Simon Thibodeau’s ‘Dogs, who last year reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in six years. Filling out Thibodeau’s somewhat thin roster are Danon Beatty, Bruna Paes (no relation to Leander Paes) and Laura Pola. If Fresno State can stay injury-free, there’s no reason it can’t reach the Elite Eight (or better).

COACH: Dima Hrynashka
‘08 FINISH: 21-7, Big Sky Conference Champions, 1st Round NCAA Regionals
8 How good are the Hornets? If the 7-0 beatdown they handed Pepperdine in their ‘09 season opener is any indication, real good. Sac State has now won seven straight Big Sky titles and 52 consecutive matches against conference competition dating back to ‘02. Dima Hrynashka returns six players, including two-time Big Sky MVP Katrina Zheltova, Joyce Martinez Gutierrez, Luba Schifris and Aileen Tsan.

COACH: Lisa Alipaz
‘08 FINISH: 16-7
8 WCC Coach of the Year Lisa Alipaz was instrumental in guiding the Gaels to a 16-7 record last year. Back on board are Arizona’s Claire Soper and Dutchwoman Alex Poorta, who compiled a team-best 15-5 record last year, mostly at No. 2. As a doubles duo, Soper/Poorta finished the season on a 10-match win-streak, including four victories over opponents from ranked teams. Newcomer Anna Chikhikvishvili — rated among the top-five recruits in California — joins SMC after capping a stellar high school career in San Diego. She’ll be backed by Puerto Rico’s Marah Calvo, Molly Aloia, Holland’s Nienke Strijbis, Sweden’s Sabina Gunnarsson and Erin Young.

COACH: Hilary Somers
‘08 FINISH: 7-11
8 Jennifer-Lee Heinser continues to make her presence felt at USF. The Floridian went 21-3 last year while earning WCC Player of the Year and WCC Freshman of the Year honors. She also became the first USF women’s player ever to qualify for the NCAAs.  Unfortunately, the Dons collectively struggled to a sub-.500 finish and fell to San Diego to finish fourth at the WCC Championships. Parisian Mylene Martin returns after an impressive 18-7 campaign, mostly at No. 2, and fellow Frenchwoman Jessy Mekpoh is back after a 12-7 season splitting time at Nos. 5-6.

COACH: Bill Maze
‘08 FINISH: 11-12
8 Their first official season as members of the Big West Conference under their belts, the Aggies will shoot to get into positive win-loss territory in ‘09. All-Big West pick Randi Schuler returns to lead the way for Bill Maze’s crew. Joining Schuler is Desiree Stone (who paced the team in singles wins with 17), Herzyl Legaspi, Dahra Zamudio, Jenna Kappel, Jessica Harris and Emma Shapiro.

COACH: Bob Chiene
‘08 FINISH: 6-14
8 Bob “Chino” Chiene’s global gathering of Jenifer Widjaja (Brazil), Jolanta Twarowska (Germany), Svenja Arens (Germany), Kateryna Nezhura (Ukraine), Clara Schuhmacher (Spain) and Olga Gumenyuk (Ukraine) heads into the ‘09 season with the goal of returning to positive territory. Arens split time at Nos. 1 and 2 last year, collecting a team-high 18 wins. But don’t be surprised if Widjaja sees more time atop the lineup. The sophomore rose to No. 186 in the world in ‘07 on the WTA Tour and will play her first full season for the Tigers after fulfilling residency requirements.

COACH: Ben Cabell
‘08 FINISH: 5-18
8 Santa Clara will likely have its hands full in the WCC, but a successful fall campaign and an infusion of talent has head coach Ben Cabell feeling optimistic. “We’re excited to get back on the courts,” said Cabell. “We had a strong fall that saw several bright spots that we are hoping will translate to success in the dual season.” Ashley Pane provides some veteran leadership at the top of SCU’s lineup, and with the addition of DePauw transfer Kelly Buckley, along with the return of Stephanie Galainena, redshirt senior Myra Davoudi, Courtney Hull and Carmen Pham, things are looking up in Bronco land.

COACH: Erin Ness
‘08 FINISH: 2nd Round, NCAA D3 Regionals
8 Talk about youth movements. Four of the seven Slugs on Erin Ness’ barebones roster are freshmen, with only Taylor Mannix, Kyla Kessler Rowe and Chrissy Nichol having seen significant D3 action. The new faces include Danielle Antoinette Burke, Sarah Malone, Chloe McHugh and Rebecca Parker. The versatile Mannix is a former Athlete of the Year at Orange County’s San Clemente H.S. (where the three-sport star excelled in tennis, basketball and track) and was unbeaten in D3 singles and doubles play last year. “We have no seniors but plenty of young talent, which should take us far,” Ness told IT. “We’re looking to duplicate last years’ success and go even further at the NCAAs.”

8 It’s a case of the rich get richer at UCLA as the Bruin women enter the ‘09 season as the defending champs for the first time in coach Stella Sampras-Webster’s career. The third-ranked Bruins survived its first road test of the season with a 5-2 victory over Pepperdine as they started the year quickly at 4-0.

Andrea Remynse will take over the top spot for the graduated Riza Zalameda. Last year UCLA returned all six singles spots coming off a year they were NCAA runners-up. This season’s team is not as experienced as the champs but do have an nice addition in Georgia Tech transfer Maya Johansson, currently ranked No. 63 in the nation, who will play No. 3 while returner Yasmin Schnack will play No. 2. Remynse and Schnack have played No. 1 doubles together early on.

Sampras-Webster is feeling a little heat as the new year begins. “There is always pressure,” she said. “I’d say now the only difference is instead of having pressure to win our first title, there is now pressure to repeat. It seems like most people want to know if we are going to be able to have that same success again this year, however this is a new team with new players. It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to and can’t wait to get started.”

Sampras-Webster will welcome newcomer Carling Seguso in the singles lineup and especially lean on the senior leadership of Ashley Joelson, who returns from a back injury, and Anna-Viktoria Lind, who will also start and junior transfer Stephanie Wetmore.
“I think the lineup is pretty balanced to be quite honest,” Sampras-Webster said. “Obviously we are going to rely a lot on Yasmin and Andrea to step up and play in our top two. They were tremendous last year and are both very capable of being very solid for us in those positions… Ashley is our senior leader and someone who has always done well for us in the past.”

Another freshman, Nina Pantic, won’t be available till the second half of the season but should contribute once she begins play.

8 The Trojans are coming off a ‘08 season in which they finished 19-8 overall and made their 13th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. USC returns All-Americans Amanda Fink and Gabriela Niculescu, who teamed up in 2008 to win the Pac-10 Doubles Championship.
The lone senior on the roster this year, Fink leads the women of Troy with a No. 16 singles ranking. Sophomore Maria Sanchez follows her closely at No. 22, with freshman Alison Ramos ranking No. 36 and junior Sarah Fansler at No. 38. Junior Niculescu also stacks up in the preseason top-100, ranking No. 67.

In doubles, Niculescu and Sanchez teamed up for a strong fall season that holds the Trojan pair at No. 24 in the preseason doubles rankings. Fink/Niculescu sit at No. 31, and the freshman-sophomore combination of Ramos/Sanchez are No. 53.
Sophomore Leyla Entekhabi from nearby Agoura Hills provides USC with a strong No. 6. The team led by coach Richard Gallien is assisted by West Nott with Jim Buck serving as the volunteer assistant.

8 With coach Peter Mattera in his 28th year, the Aztecs began the year at 5-1 after inching Pepperdine 4-3. German Julia Trunk is holding up quite well at No. 1, while Briton Holly Bagshaw has been equally as impressive at No. 2. Olivia Colman at No.  5 and Roxanne Ellison at No. 6 6 scored wins. Veteran Esther Cadua is playing No. 3, followed by Israeli Milana Yusupov, Olivia Colman and Roxanne Ellison. The squad also scored a win over UCI  and looks like a strong contender for the Mountain West title.

8 Coach Gualberto Escudero begins his 32nd season as head coach and hopes to push his up-and-down squad toward an NCAA bid.  The team shut out Oregon, but fell to Sacramento State and UCLA, a 5-2 loss. The bright spots in singles were No. 4 Jill Braverman (Corona Del Mar HS) and freshman Andrea Oates at No. 6. Alexandria Walters (Creekside Christian HS) is playing No. 2, while Canadian freshman Anne Christene Voicu is playing No. 3. Senior Alex Liles is slotted at No. 5.

8 Coach Mike Edles brought in a fresh slate of talent led by Courtney Byron, Stephanie Hammel and Hannah Holladay.  Edles apparently favors sister teams as he recruited twins Miranda and Hayley Young, sophomore transfers from Tufts, but also OC natives who attended Corona del Mar High. Returner Claire Fermin is from a trio of tennis playing sisters as is new 2010 recruit Kristina Smith from Laguna Niguel. Key returners include sophs Brooke Barlett and Rebecca Kwan and senior Heidi Kaloi, who will be sophomores after transferring from Tufts.

Byron expects to lead the trio of strong frosh recruits to lead the team. She upset USC’s Alison Ramos in early season play, gaining a Big West Player of the Week award in the process.  In early play, the Anteaters posted wins over Florida International and Hawaii. One of the key tests for the team comes at a home match on March 5 when it hosts the 49ers of Long Beach, a talented team that’s capsble of leaping over UCI, Pepperdine and SDSU.

COACH: Bryan Shelton
‘08 FINISH: 22-6, ACC Champions, NCAA Quarterfinals
8 It’s been some couple of years for Bryan Shelton’s Yellow Jackets. In ‘07, they captured Georgia Tech’s first NCAA team title in any sport. And last year Amanda McDowell became the first Tech tennis player to win an individual national championship, when she topped Baylor’s Zuzana Zemenova 6-2, 6-3. Shelton will have to make do without grads Kristi Miller and Whitney McCray, but McDowell returns along with Irina Falconi, Sasha Krupina, Christy Striplin and Noelle Hickey. Shelton was clearly pumped to get the season underway: “This team is so excited to play against another team,” he said. “We are tired of beating up on each other in practice.”

COACH: Jeff Wallace
‘08 FINISH: 22-5, SEC Champions, NCAA Round of 16
8 Two-time defending SEC champ Georgia comes into the ‘09 season with a national ranking of No. 6. Leading the way for Jeff Wallace’s ‘Dogs are newcomers Chelsey Gullickson (WTA Tour pro Carly Gullickson’s sister) and Nadja Gilchrist, and returnees Yvette Hyndman, Monika Dancevic and Naoko Ueshima. “It’s early right now to predict how this team will do in 2009,” said Wallace, who notched his 500th career win last year. “We have to focus on improving, learning and working to understand the mission, and if everybody does, great things can happen.”

COACH: Miha Lisac
‘08 FINISH: 11-9
8 In his first year at the helm, Miha Lisac led Georgia State to an 11-9 mark and a semifinal finish at the CAA Championships. Back on Lisac’s roster for ‘09 are Katerina Gresova (Czech Republic), Dariana Kozmina (Ukraine), Martina Nitkova (Czech Republic) and Kiara Powell. New to the team is Slovenia’s Diana Nakic, who brings some tour-level experience to the Panther lineup and already has some big results under her belt, including a win over Georgia Tech’s Viet Ha Nago in the fall. “Our veterans will help us tremendously,” said Lisac.

COACH: Amy Bonner
‘08 FINISH: 11-11
8 The Eagles are coming off a strong fall campaign in which Ali Beavers reached the ITA Southeast Regional semis. Georgia Southern’s experienced roster (headed by Beavers and Kristi Kegerreis) means head coach Amy Bonner can rely on her upperclassmen to set the standard. “I’m looking to seniors Shea Huxtable, Emma Knight and Molly Maddox to provide leadership for our team,” Bonner said.

COACH: Amy Bryant
‘08 FINISH: 16-10, UAA Champions, NCAA D3 Quarterfinals
8 Emory, which is coming off its 21st-consecutive University Athletic Association title, welcomes back UAA MVP Tshema Nash (who missed a portion of the fall campaign due to injury), Lorne McManigle (who won the ITA Fall Regional), Kirsten Hillock, Kelsey Krzyston, Jenny Moscato, Sabra Rogers, Sara Vrabec and Emily Wein. Among the new talent are freshmen Zahra Dawson, Daniela Schechter and Lauren Callava, and Samford transfer Lindsay Reidenbach.