KINGS POINT, N.Y. - The United States Merchant Marine Academy men's tennis team has been ranked eighth in the Landmark Conference Preseason Poll for the upcoming 2012 season. The eight head men's tennis coaches and sports information directors at each institution that sponsor the sport were polled for the preseason ballot
Drew was the consensus favorite in the balloting, earning 89 points in the balloting to finish 11-points clear of the second-place team. The University of Scranton placed second in the poll with 78 points, followed by The Catholic University of America with 71. Those three teams separated themselves, with Catholic sitting 15 points ahead of the fourth-place team.
Reigning Landmark Player of the Year Raul Smego is one of three returning All-Conference players for Drew after the team claimed an 11th-straight conference title and posted a fourth-straight unbeaten conference season. Drew finished 12-7 overall last season but will have to replace four departed seniors.
Scranton pushed Drew to a 5-4 decision in the Landmark title match, and finished with a 9-5 Landmark record. Rookie of the Year David Teres and fellow first-team All-Conference pick Tim McGurrin are both back for the Royals who lost only one player, though it was multi-time All-Conference senior.
Catholic led the Landmark with 14 total victories last year, and finished 5-2 in conference play to earn a berth in the conference postseason. The squad has nine players back from last year and went 4-0 in the fall season. Jean Paul Roman was a second-team All-Conference selection and highlights the returnees.
Moravian College placed fourth in the voting with 56 points after an 8-6 season. New Head Coach Art Smith has a slim roster with six players entering the spring, but three of the six are returning All-Conference performers Nick Yelito, Kevin Holze and Drew Shreter.
Juniata College sits in fifth place in the poll, earning 51 votes to claim that position. The Eagles narrowly missed the Landmark postseason at 3-4, and went 8-9 overall. New Head Coach Jason Cohen takes over a team that lost a pair of players but welcomes back six returnees led by All-Conference player Brice Morey.
After a second-consecutive season finishing above .500, Susquehanna University earned 34 points to place sixth in the balloting. The team finished 8-6 overall a season ago while going 2-5 in Landmark play. They had no seniors on last year's roster and leading singles winner Mats Haaland is one of nine returnees.
Similarly, Goucher College does not have a senior on this year's roster, and the Gophers are seventh in the poll with 27 points. Goucher was 1-5 in the Landmark last year and have seven players returning this season led by Daniel Csete and David Spivey who were tied for the team lead in singles wins last year.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy rounds out the polling with 14 points in eighth position. Senior All-Conference standout Jeff Gulitus should return for the Mariners after the team claimed one win last season and has nine players back from that team.
Two teams have already begun their spring season with the remainder of the programs set to begin the campaign in the coming weeks with spring trips to the south. The conference schedule begins the weekend of March 18 with Juniata playing at USMMA and Susquehanna hosting Catholic. Scranton will play at Goucher on Sunday and Moravian will host Drew the following Wednesday.