Kata Szekely is ranked in both singles and doubles for the first time.
Jan. 3, 2012
TEAM | SINGLES | DOUBLES | REGIONAL
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team will open the 2012 spring season ranked 18th nationally by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), which released its first team poll Tuesday along with individual singles and doubles rankings.
The Lady Vols return three letterwinners, all of whom are ranked in singles, from a 2011 team that became the 10th in program history to reach 20 wins.
"It's not bad for a team with four freshmen, but you have to start somewhere," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Our schedule is tough and we'll play a lot of good teams, but it will prepare us in the long run. We're looking forward to the challenge of playing and getting better throughout the year."
UT's lone senior Natalie Pluskota will debut her final season with her highest career singles ranking, slotted 24th, while sophomore Brynn Boren and junior Kata Szekely are ranked 27th and 59th, respectively. All three improved their ratings from the preseason poll (Sept. 9), which saw Pluskota at 29, Boren at 31 and Szekely unranked.
Tennessee also has a pair of formidable duos ranked in the doubles poll. Pluskota and Szekely, who played together for the first time this past fall and advanced to the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, are ranked ninth. Boren and freshman Sarah Toti, who combined for an 11-3 mark in the fall, are up 10 spots to 18th.
Pluskota, who is one of seven players nationally to be ranked both in the top 10 of doubles and top 25 of singles, enters the season tied for the 11th-most doubles wins in UT history with 88. The Newnan, Ga., native went 8-5 in singles and 9-4 in doubles during the fall.
Boren tied for a team-high eight singles wins in the fall, including three over ranked opponents. Last season, she was ranked as high as 20th.
Szekely is ranked in both polls for the first time in her career after recording seven singles wins and nine doubles victories in the fall, while Toti is a part of a four-player freshman class that will play a crucial role this season and provide depth.
The third consecutive year in which the Lady Vols are ranked in the top 20 in the initial poll, Tennessee is also one of just three schools with multiple doubles teams ranked in the top 20 and one of six with at least two top-30 singles players.
Additionally, all four of the aforementioned individuals are ranked highly among the Ohio Valley Regional rankings, which were also released by the ITA on Tuesday.
Pluskota, Boren and Szekely headline the top five in singles at second, third and fifth, respectively. Toti capped the poll at 20th.
In doubles, Pluskota and Szekely are the top-ranked pairing, while Boren and Toti are third.
TOUGH FROM THE START
Tennessee opens dual-match play against No. 9 Virginia on Jan. 21 in Flushing, N.Y., at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the Lady Vols will also face No. 4 North Carolina the following day.
Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely - 9
Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti - 18
Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely - 1
Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti - 3