PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Nine men's teams and 12 women's teams will participate in the 2012 BIG EAST Tennis Championship April 19-22 in Tampa, Fla., at the University of South Florida. Notre Dame will represent the No. 1 seed in both the men's and the women's competition.
The winners of the BIG EAST titles will receive the league's automatic bids to the NCAA Team Championships, set to begin May 11-12 on campus sites to be determined.
For the first time in four years, a team other than Louisville will enter the men's championship as the No. 1 seed. Notre Dame will take the top seed, looking for its first BIG EAST Championship since 2008. The Irish are currently ranked No. 39 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings and are led by sophomore Greg Andrews who sits at No. 64 in the nation. They also have two doubles pairs ranked among the nation's best with seniors Casey Watt and Naill Fitzgerald ranked No. 66 and junior Spencer Talmadge and Fitzgerald ranked No. 87. ND finished as the runner-up in 2010 and 2011.
The Louisville men took the No. 2 seed and are searching for their third consecutive conference title. The Cardinals come into the championship as the No. 38 team in the nation. UofL is led by freshman Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, who is looking for success in his first BIG EAST Championship.
St. John's, ranked No. 57 in the ITA rankings, earned the No. 3 seed. The Red Storm are looking for their first BIG EAST title since 1991. They claim the No. 66 ranked player in junior Vasko Mladenov who became the first St. John's player to qualify for the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Championship in the fall.
No. 72 USF locked up the fourth seed while DePaul will play as the fifth seed. Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova and Connecticut will compete as seeds 6, 7, 8, and 9, respectively.
In the women's competition, Notre Dame has won the last four BIG EAST Championships, and six times in the last seven years. The Irish have once again locked up the top seed in the tournament. The ND women boast the league's highest team, coming in at No. 19. Senior Shannon Mathews ranks No. 54 in singles play and senior Kristy Frilling is listed as No. 104. The seniors comprise the nation's fifth-best doubles team while the tandem of sophomores Britney Sanders and Julie Sabacinski is ranked No. 85.
Behind the racket of junior Ecaterina Vasenina, USF has taken the third seed in the women's competition. The Bulls are ranked 40th in the latest ITA poll, while Vasenina, the league's highest ranked singles player, sits at No. 42. The pair of Vasenina and sophomore Loreto Alonso Martinez rank No. 49 in doubles.
The No. 3 seed is Syracuse, which currently ranks at No. 57 in the ITA rankings. The Orange are led by senior Emily Harman, who comes in at No. 108 in singles competition. SU has not won a BIG EAST title since winning back-to-back years in 1984 and 1985.
No. 69 DePaul is the fourth seed at the tournament. Freshman Jasmine Kling, No. 106 in the ITA singles rankings, will try to lead the Blue Demons to their first conference title.
The Hoyas of Georgetown have secured the No. 5 seed while Louisville will represent No. 6 and Marquette will play as No. 7. The eighth seed goes to Rutgers with Cincinnati taking the ninth seed. St. John's, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall will take seeds 10, 11 and 12, respectively.
The men's and women's championships will begin April 19. The first action on the men's side will be a play-in match between the No. 8 Wildcats and the No. 9 Huskies at 9 a.m. at the Andros Dorm Courts. The winner will meet the No. 1 Irish on April 20 at 9 a.m. on the P.E. Courts. The Nos. 2-7 seeded squads will all begin play on April 20.
In the women's competition, seeds No. 5-12 will compete on April 19. The top four women's teams have earned byes and will face the winners of the lower seed match-ups on April 20.
Both championship matches are set for 9 a.m. on April 22 at the Varsity Courts.
BIG EAST Championship Seeds
1. Notre Dame
3. St. John's
1. Notre Dame