(UTSports.com) -- The Tennessee men’s tennis team debuted at No. 24 Tuesday in the first rankings by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for the 2008 season.
Virginia begins the season in the top spot with last season’s undefeated National Champions Georgia second. Ohio State, Baylor and Ole Miss round out the top five. Six SEC teams are ranked in the top 25.
The Vols once again face one of the nation’s toughest schedules. UT has eight matches scheduled against teams ranked in the top-30 in the country. Overall, 18 of Tennessee’s 23 scheduled matches are against teams ranked in the first poll of the season.
Tennessee fans will also benefit as some of the nation’s best squads come to Knoxville. The first weekend of February looks like a big weekend for the Vols as UT hosts 30th-ranked Clemson on Friday night and eighth-ranked Illinois on Sunday afternoon. Fifth-ranked Ole Miss comes to Knoxville on Feb. 29 and second-ranked Georgia ends the regular season April 12 on Rocky Top.
The first individual rankings of the season were also released Tuesday. Tennessee had two freshmen ranked in the top-100 Boris Conkic, who was not even eligible until the middle of October last fall, won enough matches to begin the 2008 season ranked 28th. The freshman from Serbia went 9-2 in the fall, defeating two ranked opponents and winning the Las Vegas Invitational the first weekend of November.
J.P. Smith is ranked 92nd after winning nine matches in the fall. Smith led the team with three victories over ranked opponents. The freshman from Australia was a highly-sought after prospect who was invited to play in the junior U.S. Open this past September.
Kaden Hensel, who finished last season ranked 18th in the singles poll and received All-America honors, is not ranked in this season’s first poll because the senior did not participate in any collegiate tournaments this past fall. The Mudgeeraba, Australia native represented his nation in the World University Games in Bangkok in August and then chose to stay in his home country for the remainder of the fall. The three-year lettermen resumed classes at UT Wednesday and will begin his senior season next weekend at the SEC Coaches’ Indoor Championships in New Orleans.
The Vols also had more netter join the squad Wednesday as Matteo Fago began classes at Tennessee. Fago from Ceprano, Italy gives UT nine players for the 2008 season. The entire squad will travel down to New Orleans next weekend for the SEC Coaches’ Indoor Championships. The first home dual-match is Jan. 24 against Furman.