TIFTON -- After finishing second at the national tournament last season, the Abraham Baldwin Stallions tennis team has a simple goal this year.

"We would like to win the nationals," said ABAC number one singles player Gaston Verna.

The Stallions will begin play Monday at the 2003 national tournament at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas.

Ranked second in the last national poll, ABAC will go in as one of the favorites to win it all. However, coach Alan Kramer is not taking anything for granted.

"We were the favorites last year and we came in second, so we are not assuming anything," said Kramer.

During last year's tournament, the Stallions won their first nine matches, but slipped on Wednesday.

"Wednesday is the key day. You have to have momentum to carry you the rest of the week and you get that Wednesday. Then on Thursday, you will most likely find out who will win the national title," said Kramer.

The finals in each flight are held Friday.

"That is for show. However, if a team can win five flights, they have a pretty good chance of winning the national title. That day is like a big dual match and you want to win the match," Kramer stated.

German Dalmagro won the number two singles flight as a freshman last year, earning All-American honors.

"That was one of my favorite memories of being here at ABAC, winning the nationals and becoming an All-American," said Dalmagro.

Verna is ranked fourth in the national rankings, while Dalmagro comes in at number 11.

Tyler (Texas) is the top ranked team in the nation. That school features three of the top 14 players in the national rankings, including number one, Mark Growcott and number two, Jordan Freitas.

"They are the favorites, but like I said we were the favorites last year and looked what happened. It will be the same as last year when no one played for the rankings, they played for the championship," said Kramer.

If comments by the players are any indication, the team will enter the tournament with an air of confidence.

"The biggest event and memory I will have of my time at ABAC is when we win the nationals. That will be a story to write about," said Oliver Marinkovic, who is ranked number 23 in the nation.

However, Kramer, a Missouri native, is telling his team to "show me."

"We've got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. If you can fight, you can win the nationals. But, we have to prove we want to fight," said Kramer.

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