Steve Carter/The Tifton Gazette
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College tennis has been among the nation’s best year-in and year-out.
But this is one year that has Alan Kramer, the Stallions’ and Fillies’ head coach, really does not know what to expect from his 2013 teams.
The preseason rankings have the Stallions at No. 9 in the nation, while the Fillies come in at No. 12, The rankings are impressive on a national level, but it does show the pollsters have lower expectations for the ABAC squads than normal, as the Stallions and Fillies are usually ranked higher.
The Stallions will begin their season today as ABAC hosts the University of South Carolina-Aiken at 10 a.m. at the Red Hill Tennis Center. As ABAC takes the court, they will be playing with only two international players, a change from previous years as NJCAA rules have limited the number of players born outside of the United States on a school’s roster.
“That is the biggest change from previous years. We will only have two international players,” said Kramer
Luckily one of those players will be returnee Oliver Snaider, who will be line at No. 1 singles today. Snaider is ranked third nationally in the individuals poll.
Going at No. 2 singles will be Dragomir Culjat from Croatia, who came to ABAC in January. He came to ABAC after the preseason polls were released, but Kramer is very high on his play.
Another returnee, Ricky Symanski, will line up at No. 3 singles today. He is ranked 32nd in the preseason national poll.
Freshman Parker Woodall, ranked 17th nationally after a strong fall season, will line up at No. 4 singles.
Filling out the No. 5 and No. 6 spots today will be freshmen Michael Bailey and Jordan Chastain.
“Bo Blalock from Colquitt County is probably our No. 7 guy right now, and we expect he will play a lot this season. Jarrett Schalch from Irwin County and Ryan Rawls from Bleckley County also have had strong preseasons, and we are expecting a lot from them,” said Kramer.
In the early part of the season, Kramer is hoping, “different kids will have to grow up. Our early season schedule will be a good learning experience for them.”
Snaider and Symanski will go at No. 1 doubles today. That duo is ranked third nationally in doubles play during the preseason.
Culjat and Woodall will be going at No. 2 doubles today, while Bailey and Chastain will play at No. 3.
While the men will begin their season today, the Fillies will not begin play until Feb. 15 when ABAC faces archrival Georgia Perimeter in Brunswick.
“It will be an interesting season for the women,” said Kramer. “We have a lot of good players.”
The only sure thing is that freshman Camelia Abdallah will be at No. 1 singles.
Between players having been sick and/or injured, the rest of the lineup is not set yet.
“We have a lot of good players and it will be fun watching them go for their spots,” said Kramer of both the men and women.
The rest of the roster for the Fillies features sophomores Olivia Robbins from Crisp County, Nikki Hall from Irwin County and Maggie Dowling.
Robbins and Hall played last year at ABAC, while Dowling was the No. 1 singles player at Central Alabama. She transferred to ABAC after Central Alabama dropped womens tennis.
The freshmen Fillies are Ayla Bradley, Lorraine Chon-Qui, Melissa Eligio and Haley Humphrey.