The 2017-18 season may have just finished up but that doesn't mean we have to wait until September to start the new season. The ITA Kick-Off Weekend Draft will be held on Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. ET with the men making their selections on Wednesday while the women pick on Thursday. The final ITA team rankings determine the 15 regional hosts plus they determine the order of selection for everyone else. The National Team Indoor Championship host gets an automatic bid so the Washington women and Illinois men get the free pass.
The biggest news is that the Stanford women will participate in the KOW for the first time since 2011. In the past Stanford has been able to skip the event and still work its way up into the top 16, which guaranteed itself a spot as a NCAA regional host, but with the new super regional format kicking in next year it'll take a ranking in the top 8 to be able to play at home until reaching the NCAA Final Site.
There was one top 16 school that decided to skip the draft and it was the Texas Tech women which finished the year ranked No. 9. Other women's schools that decided to take a pass were Texas A&M, Rice, Virginia Tech, USC, Boston College, Alabama, Hawaii, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Georgia State.
The highest ranked men's school to pass in advance was No. 23 South Carolina with Harvard, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn, South Florida, and Georgia State the others to opt out. There are several others that may opt out on the day of the draft depending on what spots are available.
The women had their Kick-Off Weekend draft on Wednesday which meant the men were up today. There are four regional hosts (Cal/Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Virginia) that have to replace three singles starters and sure enough those were the first four regionals to get filled. It only took seven picks for the Oklahoma regional to fill up with Georgia Tech, Illinois, and Northwestern choosing to play indoors in Norman. Oklahoma has a large incoming class of recruits scheduled to arrive in the fall but they'll be some drop off with Andrew Harris, Alex Ghilea, and Florin Bragusi all graduating. Georgia Tech returns everyone except Carlos Benito, Illinois returns everyone, while Northwestern has to replace its top three of Strong Kirchheimer, Konrad Zieba, and Sam Shropshire.
The Oklahoma State regional was full after the 13th pick with Mississippi State, Wisconsin, and Kentucky deciding to play indoors in Stillwater. Oklahoma State has to replace Arjun Kadhe, Lucas Gerch, and Lukas Finzelberg while Wisconsin returns all its starters, Mississippi State returns everyone except Mate Cutura, and Kentucky returns four starters with Beck Pennington and Nils Ellefsen out of eligibility.
The biggest coaching opening on the women's side was filled today when USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann announced the hiring of Alison Swain as the Trojans new women's head coach. Swain, who is a 2001 Williams graduate, had been coaching at her alma mater since 2007 and in those 10 years she won a staggering 8 NCAA Division III National Championships while her squads went 224-28 (.889). Swain replaces six-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year Richard Gallien who stepped down after 22 years on the job. Below are a few quotes from USC's release and the Williams College release also has some quotes as well.
“We are delighted and excited to welcome Alison Swain to the Trojan Family,” said USC AD Lynn Swann. “She is a proven winner as a head coach. Winning a national championship at any level is difficult to do; winning 8 of them like Alison has done in a 10-year span is beyond impressive. We are confident that she can bring the Women of Troy to that championship level.
“She has a vision and a plan for our program. She is an educator and a developer of tennis players, of scholar-athletes and of women. She will create a supportive and healthy culture for our program that will lead to success in the classroom, in life and on the tennis court.”