"We are definitely excited to get started with practice," Joffe said. "For all coaches and all teams, I'm sure there is a good mixture of excitement tempered with nerves and anticipation for the start of the season."
The Aggies, ranked No. 29 in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll, open the season Jan 28 against No. 37 Ole Miss in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Tallahassee, Fla. A&M is scheduled to play five matches on the road, not including a possible trip to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, before playing its home opener on Friday, Feb. 24 against Rice.
"Ole Miss has a very strong team, and we have work cut out for us," Joffe said. "I expect our girls to be prepared and enthusiastic and to perform very well. With that said, on a different level it is not going to define how good the team is. If we are fortunate to defeat Ole Miss, we still need to get better. And if it's not the case, we still need to get better. The Ole Miss match is not an end; it is just part of the journey."
The Aggies return four letterwinners, including junior standout Nazari Urbina, who has competed in the NCAA Singles Championship in each of the last two years. Urbina will be returning to the court after being hampered by a wrist injury in the fall.
Seniors Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce also return, along with redshirt junior Janelle Cuthbertson.
Joffe also welcomes four newcomers, including Maryland transfer Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar. The junior from Spain led the Aggies with a 13-4 singles record in the fall, including 6-3 against ranked opponents. She enters the spring as the highest nationally ranked singles player in the Big 12 Conference, coming in at a career-high No. 11.
Sun Wen, a two-time All-American at Tyler Junior College and the No. 1 ranked singles player in the nation coming out of the junior college ranks last spring, enters her Aggie dual career ranked No. 61 in the preseason ITA singles rankings.
Freshmen Janine Erasmus and Dané Vorster also are in their first year competing for the Aggies.
"This particular group we have, the range in terms of achievements is quite large," Joffe added. "We have some very, very fine players mixed with folks who have tremendous inexperience in college tennis. Four of the eight people are new to Texas A&M, and we had significant injuries to several players in the fall. At least 50 percent of the starting lineup was injured for a good chunk of the fall.
"With the limited action that many players saw due to injuries as well as the inexperience, in my opinion every spot in the lineup is wide open. It will challenge the folks who are in and out of the lineup to be hungry and ready to go every day."
Joffe is 48-38 in four seasons as a head coach, having spent two years each at Miami (Ohio) and Maryland before being hired at A&M in July. He inherits a team that went 15-9 last year and made a 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
"The enthusiasm of this team is very high, but I expect that every NCAA team is excited and hungry at this time of year," Joffe said. "As the season goes on, the character of the team will be revealed. I fully expect our team to face all of the challenges, play with passion and be well prepared."
Season tickets to all home matches are on sale and can be purchased at AggieAthletics.com, during business hours at the Athletic Ticket Office located in The Zone and Kyle Field, or by calling 1-888-99-AGGIE.