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The New Mexico State men's tennis team is ranked at No. 54 in the first 2012 season rankings released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) this week.
Last season, the Aggies finished the year at No. 50 in the final ITA rankings after advancing to the 2011 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championship. Departed senior Arthur Surreaux represented the Aggies in the NCAA Singles Championships last spring and finished the season ranked at No. 85 nationally in singles. Surreaux and fellow departed senior Jim Brouleau completed the year at No. 89 as a tandem in the final ITA doubles rankings.
The 2012 Aggies look to maintain that success this season. NM State head coach Carlos Vargas says it will be difficult to replace his top players from a year ago but believes the talent is there for another successful season.
"We had really good results last year," said Vargas. "I think our preseason ranking is based a lot on what we did last season. Each year the team starts over with a new lineup and outlook. "It will be tough after losing our top three guys from last season but I think we have the talent to maintain a ranking. Our guys have to step up their play to preserve that ranking."
Vargas has put together a challenging schedule for the Aggies starting with four of the first five matches against 2012 ranked teams. After their season opener against No. 73 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Las Cruces on Jan. 19, the Aggies play their first road matches the following week at No. 5 Baylor, an NCAA Quarterfinalist last season.
As a result of their top-50 ranking last season, the Aggies will participate in the 2012 ITA Kickoff Weekend on Jan. 28-29 against three other top-50 squads from a year ago. NM State will travel to Waco to battle the fifth-ranked Bears on day one of the two-day event. BU finished sixth overall in the final 2011 team rankings. On day two the Aggies will face either No. 39 Rice or No. 44 Florida State.
"I think the Kick Off Weekend in Baylor will be a wake-up call for our guys," Vargas said. "We will be playing a top-five team from a year ago, so it will be a great experience for our team and good to play out there against that level of competition. Our schedule is tough this season, we play 10 matches against ranked teams so every win we achieve is significant."
Senior Matej Stakne will lead the Aggies this spring after an impressive fall season. He is currently ranked No. 15 in the ITA Mountain Regional rankings released earlier this week. Stakne finished the fall slate at 7-3.
Despite nursing an off-season wrist injury, Stakne reached the Aggie Invitational singles semifinals to begin the year. The Aggie senior captain concluded the season by reaching the singles round of 16 at the ITA Mountain Regional after knocking off a ranked opponent in the third round.
Stakne partnered with junior Luis Ramirez to claim the Aggie Invitational doubles crown last fall. The pair advanced to the doubles round of 16 at the ITA Mountain Regional before bowing out to the No. 5 seeded team in extra games.
"I think Matej's ranking could even be a little higher because he was not 100 percent last fall," added Vargas. "He will be back at full strength to open the season."
The Aggies will conclude the season on a high note as NM State hosts the league tournament for the second time in five seasons at the NM State Tennis Center, Apr. 27-29. New Mexico State last played host to the WAC Tennis Championships in 2008.
The No. 54 Aggies open the season at home against the No. 73 Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. on the courts of the NM State Tennis Center.
For all of the latest Aggie men's tennis news, click NMStateSports.com.
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