Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No. 3 Gold Rush could meet No. 1 Grizzlies next week

NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana and Georgia Gwinnett, two of the NAIA's highest-rated men's tennis teams, finally could meet next week in an unaffiliated group qualifying tournament.

Georgia Gwinnett, Xavier and two teams from the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference will meet May 6 at Lawrenceville, Ga., in a one-day, two-round event to determine one of the 13 automatic bids to the NAIA National Championships.

Tuesday the NAIA announced its seventh top 25 of the season. The top six are the same for the fourth consecutive poll, including Xavier (13-6) at No. 3 and Georgia Gwinnett — 20-0 and the two-time defending national champion — at No. 1.

Xavier and Georgia Gwinnett were scheduled to meet the third weekend of February in the Grizzlies' Green and Gray Invitational, but two consecutive days of rain washed out that opportunity.

At the unaffiliated group tournament, also to be played at Georgia Gwinnett, the Gold Rush and Grizzlies could not meet until the championship round. Xavier's semifinal opponent could be 25th-ranked Asbury, which won the KIAC regular season and will compete in that conference's postseason tournament this week. The KIAC has five teams, one fewer than needed to make it an automatic-bid conference in that sport.

A Xavier-Georgia Gwinnett matchup would be the third in four seasons for the Gold Rush against an NAIA No. 1. Xavier lost to Auburn Montgomery in 2013 and to Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in 2014.

The top-25 appearance is the 75th in a row for the Gold Rush (12-5). It's Xavier's 45th straight top-10 ranking and fifth consecutive appearance at No. 3.

Key dates for the postseason:
     •  May 8:  Announcement of final top 25 before the national tournament.
     •  May 9:  NAIA announces the 24 teams which qualified for the national tournament.
     •  May 10:  Bracket announcement for the 2016 NAIA National Championships.
     •  May 17:  First round of national tournament at Mobile, Ala. . . . Afternoon start for men's duals.
     •  May 18:  Second round . . . If Xavier is eighth or higher in the May 8 poll, this is the day it would play its first dual of the tournament.
     •  May 21:  Championship round.

NAIA Men's Tennis Coaches' Top 25 Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses — records through April 10)

1Georgia Gwinnett (13)20-03431
2Auburn Montgomery18-43312
4Northwestern Ohio13-33104
5Dalton State17-52995
7Lindsey Wilson14-32767
8Coastal Georgia12-32678
9San Diego Christian9-32559
10William Carey12-724510
12-tieCardinal Stritch13-721514
12-tieLewis-Clark State11-921513
16Bethany (Kan.)12-217521
18Olivet Nazarene13-714719
21Middle Georgia11-912520

Dropped from rankings:  No. 23 Cumberland, No. 25 Marian (Ind.)
Others receiving votes:  Marian (Ind.) 58, Tennessee Wesleyan 49, Cumberland 33, Southeastern (Fla.) 30, William Woods 20, Biola 13, Indiana Tech 8, Indiana Wesleyan 7, Arizona Christian 6, Loyola 6, Missouri Baptist 3

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

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