Jan. 9, 2007

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee senior tennis player Blakeley Griffith has been ranked as the No. 12 player in the nation, according to the initial Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings, released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Tuesday afternoon. Fellow classmate Vicky Jones also made the list, coming in at No. 87, while the Lady Vols earned a placement of No. 31 in the team rankings.

"This is good place for our team to start," UT co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Now we just have to continue to build on the momentum and experience that we gained in the fall and put together a strong season this spring."

Griffith concluded the fall season with a 12-2 record, including wins in 11 of her last 12 matches and victories over four players recognized in the preseason ITA rankings. The Middleburg, Va., product was triumphant in singles at the ITA Southeast Regional Indoor Championships in October, before closing out the fall with a strong effort at the ITA National Indoor meet, reaching the Round of 16. In doing so, Griffith defeated the highest-ranked opponent of her career, downing then-No. 5 Zsuzsanna Fodor of California in dominating fashion, 6-1, 6-2.

"I am very proud of Blakeley," Patrick said. "She has worked very hard to improve during her time here, and we hope that she can lead our program to a successful spring season."

Jones had a successful fall as well, finishing with a 6-2 record. The native of Tyne & Wear, U.K., claimed the flight two singles title at the St. Mary's Classic to open the season, and then finished as the runner-up in flight two at the Furman Fall Classic two weeks later. She was also the only Lady Vol - other than Griffith - to advance past the Round of 64 at the ITA Southeast Indoor Championships, reaching the second round of singles play.

The rankings also demonstrate the challenging schedule that awaits the Big Orange this year, as nine of its 20 opponents are currently among the nation's top-25 squads, including four in the top 10 and seven in the top 20. No. 2 Florida is the Orange and White's highest ranked foe, followed by No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 10 Duke. Rounding out the list of top-25 opponents are No. 12 Vanderbilt, No. 18 Wake Forest, No. 19 Kentucky, No. 24 Georgia and No. 25 Virginia.

Always tough, the Southeastern Conference looks to be extremely strong again this year, with 11 of its 12 member institutions earning placements among the top 75. The SEC schools ranked outside the top 25 are No. 38 South Carolina, No. 44 Alabama, No. 47 Arkansas, No. 51 Ole Miss, No. 52 LSU, and No. 75 LSU. Mississippi State is the lone program not to earn a ranking.

The Big Orange will return to the courts Jan. 19-21 for the Virginia Invitational in Charlottesville, Va., before opening up the dual-match portion of its slate at 4 p.m. on Jan. 23, in Chapel Hill, N.C., against the eighth-ranked Tar Heels.





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