VU women receive 15th straight NCAA tennis bid

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 11:15pm

Vanderbilt received its 15th consecutive invitation to the NCAA women’s tennis tournament Tuesday, and the No. 19 Commodores will head to Champaign, Ill. the weekend of May 8-9.

The Commodores (11-9) received the region’s No. 2 seed and will play host and No. 3 seed Illinois (18-7) in its first match. Top seed Fresno State meets No. 4 Eastern Kentucky in the other semis match. Winners meet in the region finals for a trip to top 16 nationals at College Station, Texas, beginning May 15.

“Illinois is very good, I think they finished No. 3 in the Big 10 behind only Northwestern and Michigan,’’ said Coach Geoff Macdonald. “We’re looking forward to traveling to Champaign, I’ve never been there before.’’

Traveling is something Vanderbilt hasn’t done much in NCAA play under Macdonald’s leadership. For the first time since 1998, the Commodores will not host a home regional, snapping a streak of 10 years.

“All things come to an end,’’ Macdonald said. “If we had won more key matches during the season, that might have gotten us into top 16 and a host site. At the same time, we’re looking forward to going up there and playing well.

“We’ve got a very young team, a group which has improved as the season went along,’’ he said, adding that the Commodores will be adding national junior star Allison Riske, younger sister of former Commodore All-American Sarah Riske (2000-03).

“I’m glad we’re in a region with some new faces, it seemed like in years past we’d be playing another SEC team almost every match,’’ he said. “This year has been so different, it is so wide open this time,’’ he added.

Fifteen of the 18 teams Vanderbilt played during the season made the NCAA tourney, and 11 of the 12 SEC schools were invited.

Unfortunately, the Vanderbilt men did not receive an NCAA bid, snapping a two-year streak of invitations under Coach Ian Duvenhage.