By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
ACU sophomores Colleen Reynolds and Casper Steenkamp will compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Small College Championships, which began Thursday at the HEB Tennis Center in Corpus Christi.
The ITA championships, which began in 1986, determine the national champions for NCAA Divisions II and III, NAIA, Junior and Community College for men’s and women’s singles and doubles. The champions of those divisions will then compete in the ITA “Super Bowl” against each other to become the overall national small-college champs.
The ITA “Super Bowl” winners in singles and doubles will then earn wild card berths for the Nov. 6-9 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Cham-pionships, hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Head tennis coach Hutton Jones explained the significance of the ITA championships.
“We did not have a representative at the ITA nationals last year, so to send two this year is exciting,” Jones said. “This fall tournament is important because it will affect how we rank, both individually and as a team, in the spring when we play team tennis.”
Reynolds won the ITA Central Regional championships last month in Abilene. She defeated teammate, junior Rachel Taylor, 6-4, 6-3, in the championship match. Reynolds is seeded No. 7 seed in the women’s draw and played the No. 8 seed Cornelia Grunes of Barry (Fla.) on Thursday.
Steenkamp won the ITA Central Region championship late last month in Springfield, Mo., defeating Matias Oddone of Drury, 7-5, 5-7, 6-1, to advance to the ITA championships. Steenkamp is also the No. 7 seed and played Thursday against the No. 8 seed Richard Stempnowski of Florida-Gulf Coast.
Teammates sophomore George Carstens and freshmen Lana Pavlin will join Steenkamp and Reynolds in Corpus Christi as hitting partners. The four players and Jones left for the ITA championships Wednesday morning. Play began on Thursday.
Steenkamp echoed Jones in the importance of this tournament looking forward to the spring season.
“The ITA is the tournament where the rankings are an indicator for the spring,” Steenkamp said.
Steenkamp said he is excited about playing for the national championship.
“This is my first ITA championship so I am just going to stay calm and keep my focus on the court at all times,” he said. “My plan is to take it match by match and just play to the best of my ability. Whatever the result it will be a good experience for me.”