By Gene Renfro
Milligan College’s tennis teams have the opportunity to play into the NAIA National Tournaments as the Lady Buffs and Buffs start the trek Friday from Norcross, Ga. to Mobile, Ala., site of the nationals.
Because the Appalachian Athletic Conference does not have enough tennis programs for a direct qualifier, the league is lumped into a NAIA Qualifying Tournament in Norcross along with members of the Gulf Coast Athletic and TranSouth Conferences along with Associaion of Independent Institutions.
The Lady Buffs played in the event’s championship last season and looks to get the national trip in 2012. First up for Milligan, the No. 3 seed, will be an AAC rematch against Tennessee Wesleyan. The Lady Buffs were able to post a 5-4 win over Tennessee Wesleyan on March 27 which secured the regular-season crown within the league.
“The women’s mindset is 100 percent believe they can win it,” head tennis coach Ryan Reynolds said.
Milligan received six votes in the last NAIA Women’s Tennis Top 25 Poll to rank No. 33. The Lady Buffs will take a 10-5 record to Norcross behind a six-match winning streak.
However, the Lady Buffs’ road gets tougher with a victory. Waiting in a potential semifinal contest could be Xavier (La.), the No. 2 seed.
Xavier was right outside the Top-25, 12 points away at No. 26. The top-seed for the women’s draw is No. 17 Martin Methodist (Tenn.).
Last season Milligan won 5-0 over Bethel (Tenn.) University and Xavier before a hard-fought 5-3 defeat against Martin Methodist.
“I know every team there, I’ve done multiple hours of research,” Reynolds said about his preparation to prepare his squads.
The Buffaloes go into the men’s draw with the No. 8 seed and will play AAC foe Bluefield (Va.) College at 8 a.m. Milligan was able to pick up a 5-0 win over the Rams on April 2 which closed out the conference schedule for the Buffaloes.
A victory would move Milligan into a quarterfinal contest against the top-seed No. 8 Xavier.
“The thing I tell both teams is when tournament time comes around, you just never know what’s going to happen,” Reynolds added.
The Milligan baseball team has work left to do if the team wants to move up in the standings as the AAC season wraps up this weekend when Union (Ky.) College visits. The series begins Friday with a doubleheader.
Going into the weekend the Bulldogs of Union are 14-7 in the league, two games in front of the Buffaloes. Milligan has secured at least the No. 5 seed, but a series win over Union and two losses by Bryan (Tenn.) College, currently tied with Union, would give the Buffs the No. 2 seed in a three-way tiebreaker based on head-to-head results.
Union comes to Anglin Field with momentum in the series with an 8-1 mark over Milligan over the last three regular seasons of conference contests.
The Bulldogs have posted an 11-3 record in April which includes wins in seven of the last eight outings.
Before the regular season finale Milligan has a 12-8 record at Anglin Field while Union has a matching 12-8 mark in road contests away from Barbourville.
After winning the AAC Championships, the Milligan track and field teams still has work to do. Athletes will go to the Highlander Invitational this weekend at Radford (Va.) University.