Defending champion Florida, runner-up Virginia top ITA preseason polls
Last Updated - January 3, 2013 9:25 GMT
SKILLMAN, N.J. Ė Two-time defending national champion Florida picked up where it left off last season: at No. 1. The Gator women sit atop the ITA Division I Womenís Team Preseason Rankings.
Florida had to replace two of its top three players from last year, with Allie Will turning pro prior to the start of the 2012-13 season and Joanna Mather graduating. A couple of experienced veterans in Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen seem poised to step into the spotlight. Embree checks in at No. 5 in the ITA Division I Womenís Singles Rankings thanks to her title at the 2012 ITA/Riviera Womenís All-American Championships, while Oyen is the top-ranked player.
The team that fell short against the Gators in last seasonís championship match, UCLA, is ranked second to begin the year. The Bruins hope to build off of last seasonís success, led by sophomore Robin Anderson, who won the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships womenís singles crown last season. A duo of Pac-12 teams, USC and Stanford, should also be in the mix for this yearís NCAA title, while the Duke Blue Devils are set to make another deep run in the post-season as well.
On the menís side, Virginia has been chosen as the top team in 2013. The Cavaliers have made the championship match the last two seasons, coming up just short against USC in both matches. However, returning the majority of players from last yearís team, the men from Charlottesville will look to bring home Virginiaís first NCAA title in school history. With three singles players and three doubles teams ranked inside the top 10 to start the spring, the Cavaliers appear deeper this season than ever before.
The Trojans of USC will have to fight on without Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen this year, as coach Peter Smith tries to guide his team to an unprecedented fifth consecutive team championship. Veteran Ray Sarmiento and sophomore Yannick Hanfmann, who clinched both the ITA Division I National Menís Team Indoor Championship and the NCAA Team Championship a season ago, should provide some stability for the Trojans. USCís cross-town rival UCLA hopes to build off of a 2011-12 campaign that included taking down the Trojans in the regular season and reaching the NCAA semifinals, while perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Duke and Georgia are geared up for another successful season.