April 10, 2010

By Michael Wilson
Special to NCAA.com

Top-10 Shakeup

The new ITA national rankings were released on April 1 and the field is starting to settle with just a few weeks of the regular season left. The top spot still belongs to the defending champion Armstrong Atlantic Pirates. The Pirates have had a chokehold on the No. 1 ranking since March of last year and currently boast a 22-0 record.

The Valdosta State Blazers moved into the No. 2 spot with 13-1 record. The Blazers are accompanied in the top-five by GSC rival Ouachita Baptist at the No. 4 position. The Tigers cracked the top-five after putting together an impressive 16-1 record for the regular season. The Tigers only loss this season came at the hands of the Blazers on March 14.

Lynn moved up one spot behind VSU to No. 3 with a 16-3 record to date. The Fighting Knights lost to both No. 2 VSU and No. 1 AASU, but have a key win over fifth-ranked Barry. The Barry Buccaneers fall from second to fifth after a tough stretch where they went 0-3 losing to Lynn and Ouachita Baptist. The Buccaneers have played the other four top-five teams beating only the Blazers back in mid-February.

The top-10 is rounded out by No. 6 Hawaii-Pacific, No. 7 Florida Southern, No. 8 Rollins, No. 9 West Florida, No. 10 Columbus state.

The Sunshine Conference has made a strong late season statement placing four teams, No. 3 Lynn, No. 5 Barry, No. 7 Florida Southern, and No. 8 Rollins in the top-ten of the national rankings. The Gulf South Conference earned three spots as No. 2 VSU, No. 4 OBU gained ground while No. 9 West Florida held onto a top-ten ranking.

AASU and Columbus State are representing the Peach Belt Conference which dominated the earlier part of the season but has lost its standing in the national rankings due to cutthroat inter-conference play. Meanwhile, the western most team, Hawaii-Pacific, is the lone representative from the PacWest Conference and the only challenger form outside of the southeastern part of the country.

Feeling Left Out

The BYU-Hawaii Seasiders are the 29th-ranked team despite putting together a 15-3 record. The Seasiders were ranked No. 27 in last month's ITA national rankings, but recent struggles hurt BYUH as it toured the southeast on an extended road trip where it went 3-2.

The Lander Bearcats impressively earned a 14-3 record coming from one of the country's toughest conferences in the Peach Belt, but remained stagnant at No. 14. The Bearcats engineered a 13-game winning streak stretching from early February to late March, but struggled of late dropping two matches in a row to No. 1 AASU and No. 16 Flagler. The Bearcats have key wins against No. 13 Francis Marion and No. 19 Augusta State, but still were not able to crack the top-ten or even improve their national standing.

Battle of the Bearcats

The No. 21 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats fell to the No. 31 Southwest Baptist Bearcats in a back and forth 3-6 match on April 1.

The NWMSU Bearcats jumped to an early lead taking two of three doubles matches, 8-5 and 8-3. Southwest roared back as 43rd-ranked Marton Zsiga downed Northwest's Malcolm Harrison, 6-7 (0-7), 6-2 and 4-6, in his first loss of the season. Southwest took the lead shortly after Domingos Carissimo outlasted Felipe Gennari in a tight 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 match.

Southwest nearly swept the singles play only losing to Calvin Patterson who tried to level the score by taking the fourth spot with a straight sets win over Jorge Palacios. The southern-most Bearcats proved to be too much in singles play despite Patterson's efforts has they took the singles matches 5-1 after a 1-2 doubles start.

Northwest fell to 11-4 on the season after dropping its Mid-America Inter-collegiate Athletic Association opener. Southwest is now 4-0 in conference play and improved to 9-8 overall for the season.

The Nation's Best

The top players in the country have been set for the final stretch of the regular season and those players on the top teams have been rewarded for their success. No. 13 Francis Marion's Dilshod Sharifi has become the top player in the land and he is accompanied by teammate No. 14 Oshada Wijemanne in the top-15.

The Blazers have produced two of the top-three players in the country in Daniel Dueren and Philip Pakebusch. However, the top team in country has also produced the wealthiest line up with three players in the top-fifteen. Armstrong Atlantic's star Mikk Irdoja comes in at number six followed Rafael Array in the seventh spot and Eudaldo Bonet at No. 11.

Lynn and Barry each boast one top-15 player in Alessandro Sarra (LU) and Marco Mokryzycki (BU). Ouachita Baptist is the only top-five school without a top-fifteen player as No. 18 JC Diame is one of four ranked players overall from the Tigers' team-wide efforts.

Rollins' No. 8 Jeff Morris, Concordia's No. 5 Alex Grubin, and Lander's No. 10 Paul Henri Arrigoni are the lone representatives from their top-fifteen teams. Arrigoni was a key factor in Lander's 13-game win streak as he went 11-2 during that run in singles play.

The top teams continue to produce the top players as 40 of the top-50 players in the country currently play for top-20 teams. Only two Top-50 players are on unranked teams.