Jan. 20, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Both the Army men and women's tennis teams were named the favorites this spring when each topped their respective Patriot League Preseason Tennis polls, which were announced by the League Friday.
Army, which defeated Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., for the 2011 Patriot League crown, collected the maximum 72 points and 12 first-place votes to top the men's preseason poll. Navy, which captured four consecutive League titles from 2007-10, took second in the poll with 59 points and the remaining two first-place votes. Lehigh secured the third spot in the poll with 51 points, ahead of fourth-place Bucknell with 40 points. Colgate took fifth with 38 points, while Lafayette (22 points) and Holy Cross (12) rounded out the men's preseason rankings.
Army captured its seventh straight Patriot League title in women's tennis last season and sits atop the preseason poll once again with 71 points and 11 first-place votes. Last year's runner-up Navy, which fell to the Black Knights in the first-ever meeting between the Academy rivals in the League final a year ago, took second with 62 points and the last three first-place votes. Bucknell was chosen third in the women's preseason poll with 51 points, followed by Lehigh in fourth with 40 points and Colgate in fifth with 36. Lafayette took sixth with 22 points and Holy Cross finished seventh with 12 points.
Voting was conducted by the League's head coaches and sports information directors who could not rank their own teams in their preseason balloting.
The Army men are under the guidance of reigning Coach of the Year Jim Poling, who was named to the award by his peers in the League for the third time overall and first since 2006. The Black Knights lose Tripp Johnson, who earned second-team All-Patriot League honors last spring, but are led by the return of sophomore Asika Isoh, who garnered first-team All-League honors as a freshman in 2010-11. He also shared the Patriot League Tournament MVP honors last spring.
Navy's four-year run at the top of the League came to an end last season after the Mids fell to Lehigh in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. Head coach John Officer, who was named Coach of the Year four years in a row from 2007-10, will once again lead a deep roster into spring competition, though the Mids will miss two strong players who graduated last spring. Owen Bullard earned first-team All-League honors and was named Player of the Year, while Nick Birger was a two-time Scholar-Athlete of the Year and earned the overall Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors last summer.
Similar to Navy, the Lehigh men enter the season with a new crop of hungry student-athletes looking to make their mark. The Mountain Hawks had a pair of All-League selections in Troy List (first team) and Collin Laffey (second team), but both were seniors. Lehigh is buoyed by sophomore Mark Goldberg, who was impressive last spring in earning second-team All-League laurels. Goldberg posted a 9-0 mark overall against other League players during the regular season and the League Tournament.
Bucknell is scheduled to return both of its All-League honorees from a year ago in senior Gregg Cohenca and junior Evan Zimmer. Two more juniors in Josh Katten and Kelly Morque had impressive showings in the fall, especially at the Lehigh Fall Championships in the middle of October.
Head coach Bobby Pennington leads Colgate into another season in Hamilton, N.Y., and the Raiders will feature last season's Patriot League Rookie of the Year in sophomore Luke Gensburg. The 6-foot-3 native of Glencoe, Ill., went 12-6 overall last season and 4-1 against League opponents en route to being voted the League's top rookie. He was Colgate's second honoree to the award and first since 2002.
Eric Ratchford returns for his ninth year as head coach at Lafayette and will look to lead the Leopards through another successful season in Easton, Pa. Lafayette has three seniors on the 2011-12 squad including Doug Gallagher, who garnered second-team All-League honors last season.
Holy Cross rounded out the poll in seventh with 12 points. The Crusaders are under the guidance of third-year head coach Evan Gaudreau.
On the women's side, Army claimed nearly half of the All-League positions a year ago with six selections on the 13-member team. The biggest loss for the Black Knights is Annie Houghton, who finished her time at Army with the Academy's career wins record (98) after posting 24 wins a season ago. The good news for the Black Knights - and perhaps bad news for the rest of the League - is Army will return four of its six All-League honorees from 2010-11, including reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Jamila Paul.
Navy, which took second in the preseason poll with three first-place votes, could be the biggest threat to Army's seven-year dominance. The Mids are under the tutelage of reigning Coach of the Year Keith Puryear, who guided Navy to the Patriot League finals in just the program's second season as a League member. The Mids had three All-League selections last season, and two of them will be back in juniors Emani Decquir (first team) and Stefanie Ton (second team).
Bucknell finished third in the preseason voting and the Bison will miss Lauren Lucido, who earned first-team All-League laurels in her senior season last year. Head coach Rebecca Helt and the Bison will push forward without the program's all-time leader in victories in singles, doubles and overall, and a pair of seniors in Dumi Iepuras and Courtney Casey will try to lead Bucknell back into position to compete for the League title.
Lehigh captured the No. 4 position in the women's preseason poll, and the Mountain Hawks will feature returning All-League selection Taylor Hampshire for her sophomore season. Hampshire garnered second-team accolades last season for head coach Dave Shook. There's a lot of youth on the Lehigh roster, with three incoming freshmen and one lone senior in Elizabeth Piscitelli.
Colgate, like Lehigh, has just one senior on its roster in Stephanie Brown. The Raiders will miss Stephanie Bender, the program's lone All-League selection in 2010-11. She captured second-team laurels for the Raiders, who will look to improve upon last year's season. Colgate's season ended in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
Lafayette is similar to Colgate in that it had one All-League selections last season. Allie Seranko garnered second-team laurels, a fine accomplishment by which the senior could end her collegiate career in Easton. Now coach Ratchford will lead the Leopards into the spring with about as balanced a roster as one could ask for: three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and a pair of seniors.
The Holy Cross women are led by third-year head coach Lisa Meola. The Crusaders posted a 7-1 record in duals in the fall.
The spring leg of the 2011-12 season begins Saturday when Navy hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) in Annapolis, Md. The men will take the court first at 9 a.m., with the women's matches following at 1 p.m.
2012 Patriot League Preseason Tennis Polls
1. Army - 72 points (12 first-place votes)
2. Navy - 59 (2)
3. Lehigh - 51
4. Bucknell - 40
5. Colgate - 38
6. Lafayette - 22
7. Holy Cross - 12
1. Army - 71 (11)
2. Navy - 62 (3)
3. Bucknell - 51
4. Lehigh - 40
5. Colgate - 36
6. Lafayette - 22
7. Holy Cross - 12