After achieving a measure of individual success during the fall, the McPherson College men's tennis team has been selected to capture its second Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title in three years in the league's annual preseason coaches' poll, the conference office announced Jan. 18.
The Bulldogs received 63 points and seven first-place votes, edging defending regular-season champion Bethany College by five markers. The Swedes received the two remaining first-place votes. Southwestern College was ranked third with 49 points.
On Jan. 24, McPherson was ranked 17th in the NAIA Men's Tennis Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll, matching the program's final 2016 ranking. Rival Bethany is the only other KCAC school in the rankings, checking in at No. 21
The Bulldogs took home the 2015-16 KCAC Tournament title, defeating Friends University, 5-0, before topping Bethany, 5-3, to win the postseason tournament. McPherson went on to compete in the NAIA Men's Tennis National Championships, but was defeated by Warner (Fla.), 5-0, on the first day.
Last fall, McPherson walked away from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central-West/Southwest Regional Championship with a doubles title for the third consecutive year. Joan-Marc Fajula Rodriguez and Hector Carrillo Perales, the top seeds in the men's doubles flight, needed a third set and a tiebreaker to outlast Abdul Alhamzawi and Heitor Garcia of Missouri Valley College, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (6) to capture the crown. This was the third-straight ITA regional doubles crown for Fajula, who paired with Rafael Bulnes for titles each of the last two seasons.
Additionally, Ahmed Lahlou won the Flight A singles title at the Wheat State Invitational and, despite the entire lineup playing up a flight due to the absence of Fajula, the Bulldogs captured four titles and a pair of runner-up finishes at the KCAC Fall Individual Championships.
As for the women, McPherson College is the unanimous choice of the league's coaches to capture the 2017 KCAC title after winning its third straight crown last season.
The Bulldogs received the maximum 64 points and all eight available first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team) in the 2017 KCAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, followed by Southwestern College (54 points), Ottawa University (47 points, 1 first-place vote) and Tabor College (44 points).
On Jan. 24, McPherson was ranked 20th in the NAIA Women's Tennis Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll. Rival Southwestern is the only other KCAC school receiving votes with 12.
Last spring, the Bulldogs defeated Kansas Wesleyan 5-2 in the semifinals before winning 5-1 over Ottawa to take their third title in as many years. McPherson went on to compete in the NAIA Women's Tennis National Championships but fell to William Carey, 5-1, in the first round. The Bulldogs finished the 2015-16 season with a 13-6 overall record and a perfect 8-0 conference record.
McPherson is represented in the ITA NAIA National rankings with Brittany Zipf receiving the highest ranking in Bulldog women's tennis history at No. 14, while Lea Striegel sits at No. 50. Zipf took runner-up honors at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central-West/Southwest Regional Championship last fall. McPherson won six of nine flights and finished second in two others at the KCAC Individual Championships, including two each for Zipf (No. 1 singles, No. 2 doubles) and Besa Bwalya (No. 4 singles, No. 2 doubles).