By Mike DeVader, Communications and Sports Information Intern
KANSAS CITY, MO. – For the first time in school history, Georgia Gwinnett will begin a men’s tennis season as the top-ranked school in the 2015 NAIA Men’s Tennis Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The defending national champion Grizzlies earned 343 points and all 13 first-place votes.
Georgia Gwinnett won its first national title in its first year of NAIA postseason eligibility in 2014, and capped a dream season with a perfect 21-0 record. The Grizzlies, who had 15 victories over ranked opponents from NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and the NAIA last season, closed their year with a 5-1 win over top-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the national championship final on May 17, 2014.
The 2015 schedule is much of the same for Georgia Gwinnett, as it will play multiple matches against teams that are ranked in either NCAA Division II or NCAA Division III.
The Grizzlies begin their title defense on Friday against Point (Ga.).
Embry-Riddle – 2014 national runner-up – starts the season at No. 2 with 332 total points. The Eagles look to build off their 21-4 record from a season ago, where the loss in the national championship final was the school’s first and only defeat to an NAIA competitor all year.
In at No. 3 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) with 319 points. Last year, the Warhawks joined the Eagles on the list of schools taken out by the Grizzlies in 2014 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship, and finished the season with a 24-4 mark. The rest of the top five includes 2014 national championship semifinalist Vanguard (Calif.) (312 points) in third, and quarterfinalist Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) (298 points) is fifth.
The top 11 schools in the rating remain in the same position they held in the 2014 Postseason Poll on May 21, 2014, with No. 12 Graceland (Iowa) making the first positive movement within the ranking, up two spots from finishing No. 14 last season.
No. 14 Northwood (Fla.) made the biggest leap of any school, jumping up from No. 25. Webber International (Fla.) fell the furthest of any institution, dropping from No. 16 to No. 25.
Four new schools – No. 18 Oklahoma Baptist, No. 19 SCAD Savannah (Ga.), No. 22 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 24 San Diego Christian (Calif.) – join the Top 25.
Eleven conferences/Association of Independent Institutions/unaffiliated groups are represented throughout the Top 25, led by five teams from the Southern States Athletic Conference. The Golden State Athletic Conference and The Sun Conference have the second-most teams in the poll with four.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Association of Independent Institutions. For the entire 2015 NAIA Men’s Tennis Coaches’ Top 25 Poll schedule, click here.
The first regular-season unveiling of the Top 25 Poll will be Feb. 17.
Notes: (All information as of the 2000 season) Georgia Gwinnett is ranked No. 1 for the second time in program history, and first time as a preseason No. 1… Embry-Riddle (Fla.) had topped the poll for 12-straight editions prior to the 2014 Coaches’ Postseason Poll on May 21, 2014… The Eagles begin 2015 in the No. 2 slot… Auburn Montgomery’s (Ala.) 29 top mentions are the most all-time… The Warhawks are followed by former-members Azusa Pacific (Calif.) and Fresno Pacific (Calif.) with 23 each, Embry-Riddle with 15 and Oklahoma City with 13… Two teams held the No. 1 ranking in 2014: Embry-Riddle and Georgia Gwinnett.
2015 NAIA Men’s Tennis Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll (Jan. 27)
|RANK||LAST WEEK^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Georgia Gwinnett (13)||343|
|3||3||Auburn Montgomery (Ala.)||319|
|5||5||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||298|
|15||19||SCAD Atlanta (Ga.)||166|
|17||21||Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)||155|
|T19||NR||SCAD Savannah (Ga.)||120|
|T19||23||Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||120|
|T22||24||William Carey (Miss.)||97|
|24||NR||San Diego Christian (Calif.)||96|
|25||16||Webber International (Fla.)||86|
Others Receiving Votes: McPherson (Kan.) 73; Warner (Fla.) 66; Campbellsville (Ky.) 43; Marian (Ind.) 36; St. Francis (Ill.) 36; Missouri Valley 27; Hastings (Neb.) 25; Friends (Kan.) 17; Bethel (Tenn.) 16; Asbury (Ky.) 9; Bethel (Kan.) 4; Southeastern (Fla.) 3.
^ 2014 NAIA Men’s Tennis Coaches’ Postseason Top 25 Poll (May 21, 2014)