DRIFTON, PA – The Winston-Salem State Lady Rams (20-9) tennis team will make its return to the national post-season when the team takes part in the 2012 NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament this weekend. With an experienced squad that is loaded with talent and a wealth of momentum behind them, this season's team is well-prepared to face the challenges of the post-season tournament play.
This year, the Lady Rams will head into the tournament after taking a 5-0 loss to the Shaw Lady Bears in the 2012 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championship Finals. Though falling short of their goal of repeating as conference champions, the 2012 Lady Rams earned an at-large bid to the tournament by virtue of their second straight 20-win season and several quality wins against some of the top teams in the region.
"Our team has worked hard to get this bid to the 2012 NCAA Atlantic Regional Tournament," WSSU women's tennis head coach John Martin said. "After Saturday, we will have played everyone ranked ahead of us in the region, and beaten some of them, too," WSSU women's tennis head coach John Martin said after earning the bid. "There were times that the team was asking why we were playing all of these teams and this is why. We wanted to make sure that we were going to make the NCAA tournament regardless of winning the conference championship."
The Lady Rams had another great season as the team posted a 20-9 overall record with a 16-7 record against teams from the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region. Though the Lady Rams did not take home the conference title and the automatic bid to the tournament, the team earned an at-large bid by virtue of their stellar efforts on the court this season. The bid came as a result of the team's strong efforts and quality play for the season. "It shows that we put in the work," Martin said. "And that the NCAA selection committee thinks that we deserve to be there."
Experience will not be a factor for the Lady Rams as the entire team from last season's team which also competed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament will return this season and are well-versed in what is needed in order to succeed at the tournament. "Everyone knows what it feels like to play in the NCAA Tournament and represent WSSU and the CIAA," Martin said. "We all wanted to have that feeling again so we put in the work, and here we are."
The Lady Rams will head into the tournament with a bit of momentum after winning seven of their last nine matches. However, the team will need to focus on winning against some of the top teams in the nation when they compete in the tournament.
"To win this weekend, we're going to have to play our best tennis of the season," Martin added. "California (Pa.) is a strong team, and we saw them at the International Tennis Association (ITA) Regionals this fall, so we know what to expect. The girls know what they have to do and we're hopefully going to go out there and stun the world.
The Lady Rams will head into the tournament as the eighth-seed and will take on the top-seeded host California (Pa.) Vulcans. Currently, the Lady Vulcans are ranked #8 in the nation in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings' latest poll.
"They can flat out play. I was talking to another Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PDAC) coach and he referred to them as having six #1 singles players and that's not far from the truth," Martin added. "It's probably safe to say that all of their players would play #1 at a lot of other schools."
The Lady Rams and the California (Pa.) Vulcans will take the courts on Saturday afternoon in a 1:00 p.m. match. The match will take place at the Roadman Park in Drifton, Pa. For more information on Lady Rams tennis, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.