Continuing his annual pilgrimage out to the Mercer County Tennis Center, Ron Ratner seemed excited about the three days that lie ahead.
The NEC’s grizzled veteran of a tennis administrator has been overseeing the NEC Tennis Championships since 1999 when the tournament took on a team flighted format and found a new home in Mercer County, NJ.
Upon arriving at Mercer County Tennis Center set back within the grounds of plush Mercer County Park, the NEC Tennis Championships have never left and the reasons go beyond the fact the park is located in the epicenter of the NEC’s geographic footprint.
“It’s a great venue for our student-athletes and fans alike,” said Ratner. “As far as the facility itself, the Mercer County Parks Commission has made numerous enhancements to the outdoor courts over the years and only a few years ago added an award-winning indoor facility to the premises.”
With more than 20 outdoor courts, the venue allows the NEC to service its 19 men’s and women’s tennis teams, which feature nearly 150 student-athletes. Should inclement weather attempt to put a damper on things, as was the case in 2011, Ratner can move the tournament indoors and business can continue as usual.
“We’re hoping to avoid what happened last year because of the weather, but it is good to have that safety net should we need it,” said Ratner.
While he’s hoping for good weather, Ratner is expecting to see some great tennis.
“The quality of student-athletes NEC coaches are bringing in continue to make t his championship a more competitive event year after year.”
Fairleigh Dickinson was the runner-up in both the men’s and women’s preseason coaches’ polls, but owns the No. 1 seed on both sides heading into the tournament, the winner of which will receive automatic access into the NCAA Championship bracket.
“The Fairleigh Dickinson men received the top seed, and deservedly so,” said Ratner, who also sits on the NEC Tennis Championship Committee. “Coach Miller has done a fantastic job attracting talent from all over the world and this year’s collection has performed well thus far, having beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds during regular season play.”
Ratner also points to the “steady rise” that has taken place with the Monmouth men’s program under the direction of Mickey Cook, and sees the Hawks as a possible threat to FDU. Then, there’s also defending champion Sacred Heart and perennial title contender Quinnipiac who are capable of making a run deep into the weekend.
“The FDU women also proved worthy of the No. 1 seed with its regular season resume and has really benefitted from the emergence of Anna Rapoport as an elite player,” said Ratner.
Overtime! isn’t quite sure who will win it all this weekend, but we do know one thing – Set for his 14th appearance as the tournament director, Ratner is revved up and ready to go.
NortheastConference.TV personality Craig D’Amico, who doubles as a local tennis coach, will be on the scene all weekend long to deliver live updates to NEC Tennis fans. The NEC’s resident tennis guru, D’Amico will be blogging live as well as disseminating information via Twitter (@NECTennis).
Click here for Cover It Live Blog
A quick glance at D’Amico’s personal Twitter feed shows that he, like Ratner, is more than ready for what lies ahead.
(posted approx. 3:00 pm on Apr. 19)
@CraigCD13 – I’ll be on site covering NEC tennis this weekend – by far the toughest event to prep, there are 19tms & about 115 student-athletes playing
2012 NEC Tennis Championships Rundown
What: single-elimination championship tournament
When: April 20 through April 22
Where: Mercer County Tennis Center, West Windsor, NJ
Who: 10 men’s teams, 9 women’s teams
Men’s Top Seed: Fairleigh Dickinson
Men’s Preseason Favorite: Quinnipiac
2011 Men’s Champion: Sacred Heart (def. Quinnipiac, 4-3)
Women’s Top Seed: Fairleigh Dickinson
Women’s Preseason Favorite: Quinnipiac
2011 Women’s Champion: Quinnipiac (def. FDU 4-3)
Official Tournament Bracket (PDF)