Fall Season Begins Friday

Well the collegiate tennis season is upon us, as Fall tournaments crop up all over the country.

Many of the “biggies” will play in Midland at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational. The men’s event will feature players from at least 18 schools including Baylor, Boise State, Oklahoma, Pepperdine, Nebraska, SMU, Texas, Tulsa, Maryland, New Mexico, Abilene Christian, Texas A&M, San Diego, University of Texas- Arlington, Rice, Penn State, Texas Tech and TCU.

Rice juniors Michael Nuesslein and Christian Saravia will be joined by sophomore transfer Harry Fowler and freshman Peter Frank during the weekend. The Owls are only sending four players to Midland so as to not have the tournament count as one of their fall team dates.

“It will be a good early test for all four of them,“ Rice head coach Ron Smarr said. “The fall is when we have a chance to work on doubles, so we’ll have Michael and Christian play as one team and Harry and Peter as the other. The fall is also important because it builds up the basis to determine if you will be ranked for the start of the spring season. The quality of the field at Midland will be a good test for all of them,” Smarr added.

Sophomore Sergio Ramirez (Cali, Columbia) and freshman Robert Verzaal (Shreveport, La.) will make up the Baylor contingent in this weekend’s event.

“It is a matter of just getting some match play in,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “Tennis is a competition sport. Sergio and Robert just need to get up there and compete. Both have different objectives, but both are just trying to get better.”

Ramirez is coming off of a season where he saw limited action in Baylor’s singles lineup, going 9-2 for the year and 8-2 in dual-match play. Verzaal, Baylor’s lone freshman on a veteran laden team, opens his college career after being rated the No. 1 recruit from the state of Louisiana by tennisrecruiting.net.

“Sergio didn’t play a match this summer and Robert has made a lot of changes in his game since he got here this fall,” Knoll said. “They are both just going to try to get a little better and this is a strong tournament in order for them to do that.”

TCU will be sending senior Zach Nichols and junior Paul Chappell in what will be the first event of new head coach David Roditi’s career.

Nichols and Chappell will team up in the doubles draw, as they look revisit the strong chemistry they were able to produce last spring. The tandem posted an 11-7 record during the 2010 dual-match season that included victories in nine of its last 12 outings. In addition to pairing up in doubles, both Nichols and Chappell will also compete in singles. Nichols has been seeded No. 6 in the singles draw.

Texas’ Alex Hilliard, Chris Camillone, Ben Chen and Daniel Whitehead will join the action as well.

“There always is a strong field at this event in Midland. The guys worked very hard this summer, and we’re excited to finally let them put their hard work to good use and showcase their improvement. Alex is much stronger. His consistency has improved. It’s just a matter of Alex executing his shots and doing it with consistency. He had a good summer, has worked hard, and he is ready to play better this year. Chris is one of our most improved guys. He qualified for some ATP Futures events this summer had some nice results. Chris is one of our better athletes. I have really felt that as Chris matures and figures out the type of player he wants to be that his progress would come to fruition. We will see that from him. Ben Chen had an excellent summer. He earned an ATP point and recorded a win over Daniel Nguyen, who has played on USC’s national championship teams the last two seasons. Ben has gained some confidence and has become much stronger. We think he’s ready to break out and show his talents. Daniel Whitehead won a lot of matches on the ITA Texas section circuit and made the semifinals of an ITA national event. His confidence is high, and like the rest of the guys, he used this summer to gain strength. He needed some work when he got here, but he is much stronger now.”

On the women’s side, teams will be playing not only in Midland, but also in Corpus Christi, New Mexico and at Duke.

The Rice women’s tennis team will open their 2010 fall campaign by splitting up to take part in a pair of college tennis tournaments this weekend.

Six of the Owls (Rebekka Hänle, Jessica Jackson, Ana Guzman, Alex Rasch, Danni Trigo and Dominique Harmath) will travel west to take part in the Midland Racquet Club Invitational in Midland, while four others (Varsha Shiva-Shankar, Mecklin Ragan, Leah Fried and Kim Anicete) will head Corpus Christi for the Islander Invite.

“We’re excited to be able to get out on the court and play some matches,” Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. “I know our three freshmen are ready to get that first collegiate match in the books.”

Four Longhorns set to compete at the season-opening Duke Invitational in Cary, N.C, joining teams from Duke, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Northwestern, Princeton, Purdue and Wisconsin.

“This will be an extremely tough tournament, but we’re looking forward to getting the season started and getting some match play under their belts. We will take some of our veterans – Aeriel Ellis, Krista Damico, Maggie Mello and Caroline Larsson.”

Five members of the Texas A&M women’s tennis team open the fall season Friday at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational.

“This tournament will be a good test for us, and it will give us a good indication of what we need to work on,” said Kleinecke, who is entering his 26th season at the helm of the Aggies. “We’ve had some good practices so far, and it will be good to get in some matches.”

Seniors Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch) and Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.), juniors Sheri Olivier (Topeka, Kan.) and Lauren Santacroce (Spring), and redshirt sophomore Janelle Cuthbertson (Perth, Australia), who sat out the spring season, will be competing in the tournament

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