COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Texas A&M women's tennis team will begin the spring season ranked No. 29 in the Campbell's/Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason poll, released Tuesday.
The Aggies, under the direction of first-year head coach Howard Joffe, also have three individuals ranked in singles, including newcomer Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, who will enter the season as the highest nationally ranked player from the Big 12 Conference at a career-high No. 11.
Junior Sun Wen, the No. 1-ranked player in the nation in the final 2011 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings, is No. 61 in the preseason singles ranking, and Aggie standout Nazari Urbina comes in at No. 105 after missing much of the fall season with an injury.
"It is encouraging to see that we have three players ranked, but as team and individual rankings go, they reflect a small sample size and are insignificant until matches have been played," Joffe said. "I don't worry much about the rankings; we know they will change dramatically as we get into the season. It is more important that the girls do a good job and work hard in their training as we get ready to play Ole Miss. We have our work cut out for us."
Sanchez-Quintanar, a junior who followed Joffe to A&M from the University of Maryland, was ranked as high as No. 24 with the Terrapins and was No. 34 in the final 2011 singles rankings after leading Maryland in singles victories last spring. She went 13-4 for A&M this past fall, including 6-3 against ranked opponents.
Currently the No. 2-ranked singles player in the ITA Texas Region, Sanchez-Quintanar competed in the prestigious invitation-only Riviera/ITA All-American Championship in October. From Campo de Criptana, Spain, Sanchez-Quintanar also was invited to compete at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championship in November after reaching the finals at the ITA Texas Regional Championship.
Wen (Dalian, China), the Flight 1 national singles champion at the 2011 NJCAA Division I National Championship, is listed No. 61 in the ITA's current ranking of the top 125 Division I women's singles players. The junior transfer from Tyler Junior College went 6-6 for the Aggies this past fall and advanced to the finals of the HEB Baylor Invitational, along with Sanchez-Quintanar.
Urbina, a junior from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, was 29th in the final 2011 ranking after playing in her second consecutive NCAA Singles Championship. She entered the fall listed No. 20 in the preseason ranking and opened the fall season by winning her first three matches in straight sets to advance to the finals of the White Flight at the Duke Fab Four Invite. Urbina received an invitation to the ITA/Riviera Women's All-American Championships for the second consecutive year but suffered a wrist injury and a first-round loss. A&M's top returning player sat out the remainder of the fall while recovering from the injury, finishing with a 3-2 record.
"Cristina's ranking reflects a lot of good performances and shows how well she has adjusted to Texas A&M," Joffe said. The same could be said about Sun, moving to A&M and adjusting to the rigorous play in Division I. Nazari's skill level is as good as anyone in the country, and her current ranking is far from indicative of the talented player that she is.
"All three of them are as good as any player that we will face. They also make us awfully good at the top of the lineup."
Defending national champion Florida is No. 1 in the team ranking. Mallory Burdette of Stanford is the top-rated singles player and also is No. 1 in doubles with partner Nicole Gibbs.
The Aggies, who went 15-9 last year and were No. 33 in the final team rankings, report for spring training Jan. 12. They open the season Jan. 28 against No. 37 Ole Miss in Tallahassee, Fla., in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
For complete team and individual rankings, go to ITAtennis.com.