The Horizon League released its men's and women's tennis preseason tennis polls Thursday. The men were selected third, while the women were slotted at eighth.
On the men's side, the reigning champion Green Bay Phoenix was tabbed as unanimous favorites with six first-place votes. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Michael Tenzer, the back-to-back Horizon League Men's Tennis Player of the Year, returns for his senior season.
Cleveland State received 31 points, including a first-place vote, which was good for a second-place finish in the poll.
Behind a wealth of young talent, Valpo earned its highest preseason ranking in recent history. Jeffrey Schorsch (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) earned Men's Freshman of the Year honors in 2014 after setting a school record for single victories in a season (27). Fellow sophomore Dave Bacalla (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) was named Second Team All-League last spring following a 25-9 rookie campaign. 2014 also saw Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) become Valpo's single-season record holder for victories in doubles play after a 28-5 season. Emhardt and Schorsch combined to 21-1, with the majority of those triumphs coming at No. 2 doubles. Kyle Dunn (Fond du Lac, Wis./Fond du Lac) added 22 wins of his own, including a perfect 6-0 mark in League play.
"Experience is starting to pay off for the team as everyone is getting stronger. Jeffrey, Dave, and Charlie look particularly strong and will carry a lot of weight in both singles and doubles. Our depth is better than ever so it will be interesting to see who will round out our starting line-up. We should be able to challenge anyone in conference and look forward to the challenge," head men's tennis coach Jim Daugherty said.
Youngstown State (18 points) edged out Wright State (17 points) for fourth place in the polling. The Penguins welcome six freshmen to the mix, but will be led by senior Silviu Mistreanu. The Raiders are expected to be paced by senior Lauri Makikalli and sophomore Dan Gilbert, both All-League selections a year ago.
Detroit (10) and UIC (9) rounded out the poll at sixth and seventh place, respectively.
The men open their season next Saturday, Jan. 24th at Toledo. First serve is slated for 3 pm ET/2 pm CT.
On the women's side, there was no consensus for first place. Three teams - Youngstown State, Cleveland State, and UIC - each received three first-place votes. The Penguins, who captured their first Horizon League title in program history in 2014, earned the top spot with 58 polling points, one point ahead of Cleveland State. Lauren Golick, last season's Player and Freshman of the Year, returns for the Vikings.
UIC gathered 52 points and its absence at the top of the poll represents a changing of the guard. The Flames' string of 17 straight Horizon League Championships was snapped last spring.
Detroit and Milwaukee finished in a tie for fourth with 41 points while Wright State was elected sixth, with 27 points. Oakland was selected seventh (23 points) while Valpo finished three points ahead of Green Bay (11 points).
The Crusaders have plenty of veteran leadership. Kaitlyn Hamel (Lakewood, Colo./Green Mountain), Megan Barthels (Grand Rapids, Mich./Catholic Central), Michele Fredlake (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's), and Lauren Kammerer (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) all return for their senior seasons while sophomores Paige Heuer (Munster, Ind./Munster) and Morgan Paras (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard) seek to improve upon strong freshman campaigns. A crop of newcomers in Cary Milanes (Miami, Fla./Miami Palmetto), Kathleen Hebble (Sellersburg, Ind./Silver Creek), and Erin Staal (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) are expected to contribute right away.
The Valpo women knocked off Aquinas and Davenport in the fall portion of their schedule.
The 2015 Horizon League Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships will be held April 24th-26th at the Schwartz Tennis Center on the campus of Purdue University.