Montgomery, Ala. – The College of Coastal Georgia tennis teams are here this week to compete in their first-ever Southern States Athletic Conference tournaments.
While both teams are aiming for the conference crowns along with all of the other teams from the league, both Coastal Georgia squads also are hoping for berths in their respective national tournaments next month and need strong showings as the conference event to boost their chances of receiving bids to nationals.
Both Coastal Georgia squads are the No. 4 seeds in their conference tournaments which are taking place at the Lagoon Park and Auburn-Montgomery courts.
"Everyone in our conference is good, so each match is tough," said Coastal Georgia coach Kemper Baker. "There is no easy path. Both teams have a tough road ahead."
The women's tournament is especially strong as the 10-team tournament features five teams in the NAIA Top 25 including three in the top five. Second-ranked Brenau is the top seed while third-ranked Auburn-Montgomery and fifth-rated William Carey are the second and third seeds, respectively. All three teams have spent time at the top spot in the national poll this season.
The No. 14-ranked Mariners and No. 23-ranked Lee are the other two ranked teams in the field. As the fourth and five seeds for the conference event, they will square off in an intriguing quarterfinals matchup at 2 p.m. Friday at Lagoon Park. The winner will advance to Saturday's semifinals where it would likely face top-seed Brenau which faces the winner of the play-in match between eighth-seeded Spring Hill and ninth-seeded Loyola.
The Mariners knocked off Lee at home during the regular season, winning 7-2 to upset the Flames who were ranked 15th in the country at the time. Coastal Georgia moved into the national rankings in the next poll after that attention-getting victory.
Auburn-Montgomery is the defending champion in the women's tournament. The Warhawks have won the last eight league titles.
In the men's tournament, the AUM men are also the defending champions and are looking for their ninth straight championship. The Warhawks are favored for the title as the nation's second-ranked team and top seed for the conference event.
The Warhawks are one of three ranked teams in the field. Other ranked teams are No. 7 William Carey and No. 14 Belhaven. The Mariners and Mobile are also receiving votes in the poll. Coastal Georgia spent most of the season ranked before falling out of the national poll in recent weeks.
Coastal Georgia will open play in the tournament at 2 p.m. Friday against No. 5 seed Mobile with the winner advancing to Saturday's semifinals where the likely opponent will be AUM which is set to face the winner of a play-in match between No. 8 seed Loyola and No. 9 seed Emmanuel.
"I am really happy with the way both of our teams are playing going into this week," Baker said. "We've had some good practices since our last match against Emmanuel. Our kids are playing with confidence and I feel like they will be up to the challenge."