The No. 7 Texas A&M men’s tennis team was picked first in the 2018 SEC Coaches’ Poll, announced Tuesday afternoon by the league office. The Aggies first place prediction is the highest since joining the SEC for the 2013 season, topping the second place prediction prior to the 2015 season.
"It is a great honor to be considered by our peers as one of the top teams in the SEC but everyone knows just how tough this league is top to bottom," Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. "We have to bring our best effort every match, our focus at the moment is not getting ahead of ourselves but to try to get everyone of our young men better on a daily basis, if you accomplish that the winning and losing will take care of itself."
The 2018 Aggies return six lettermen from last year’s SEC Championship squad that advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 and finished the season ranked No. 12 in the final ITA Rankings. Texas A&M returns singles All-American, Arthur Rinderknech, and the All-American doubles tandem of AJ Catanzariti and Rinderknech. Rinderknech, a Paris, France native, looks to become the first Aggie to earn a trio of singles All-American honors after becoming the first back-to-back singles All-American since Austin Krajicek (2010, 2011).
Joining Rinderknech and Catanzariti from last season’s title-winning squad are Jordi Arconada, Kevin Lam and Valentin Vacherot. Arconada, Catanzariti and Rinderknech comprise one of the most accomplished senior classes in program history as all three are within striking distance of the top-25 for dual match singles victories. The senior trio have been a part of 72 dual match victories, two SEC Championships, one SEC Tournament title and a trip to the NCAA Championship Round of Eight.
Vacherot turned in a memorable freshman campaign after matching Arconada for the team lead in singles victories a year ago. The sophomore led the Aggies with nine tournament wins this fall and earned a career-high No. 10 singles ranking to enter the spring season.
Texas A&M’s 2018 signing class was one of the most decorated groups in program history, the class consists of Juan Carlos Aguilar, Patrick Kypson, Pranav Kumar and Barnaby Smith. The signing class includes a wealth of international experience and a Texas state champion from a year ago. Kypson’s signing marked the first time in program history that the Aggies inked the No. 1 American prospect.
The Aggies were picked as the conference champion followed by No. 4 Georgia and No. 9 Florida in a tie for second. No. 14 Mississippi State and No. 20 South Carolina round out the top-5 followed by Kentucky, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and LSU. The preseason poll is voted on by the men's tennis head coach at each institution and is based on a 13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 vote.
Texas A&M opened the dual match season with a 6-1 victory at Arizona State and will host the ITA Kick-Off Weekend January 27-28 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.