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Last weekend saw some of the biggest names in collegiate tennis go head-to-head at the ITA Kickoff Weekend. The top 15 colleges based on the 2022 year-end rankings were host schools that welcomed three other schools to be part of a 4-team knockout draw totalling 60 teams participating across the country.

The winner of each of the 15 brackets progress to the ITA National Indoors where they will all face off at the end of February.

The University of South Carolina hosted their bracket as they finished #10 in the country last year. Now ranked #8 after a big win against 17th ranked North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, the Gamecocks went into the tournament undefeated.

Brisbane’s Casey Hoole helped the Gamecocks clinch victories over The University of Pennsylvania and NC State without dropping a match which has qualified the Gamecocks for the ITA Indoors. “It’s incredible”, said Hoole. “Looking at our schedule at the start of the season we kind of thought that this weekend would be a huge stepping stone for us.

You get through this qualification, you get a chance to play at least three top 15 schools”. The Gamecocks will play the ITA National Indoors which is set for February 17-20 in Chicago, Illinois and will enter a knockout draw with winners of other brackets with the likes of Baylor, Tennessee and Ohio State.

The Ohio State University, finishing #5 in the country last year, currently ranked #2, hosted Tulsa, Oregon and The University of Central Florida (UCF). Tulsa and Oregon had an ‘all-aussie’ battle as we saw Kody Peasron come from a set down against countryman Josh Charlton, digging out a 1-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory.

Kody and Josh represented Australia together at the BNP Paribas World University Games in Paris back in December. “It’s never easy playing one of your good friends,” said Pearson. “We both started maybe a little bit nervous. He handled it a little bit better than I did initially but once I got my teeth into the match I kind of controlled what I could control and finally found a way to put the pressure on.”

Pearson played alongside Melbourne’s Connor Di Marco who he has played with since they were both Freshman at Tulsa. Although going down 7-6 (7-5) in the doubles, Di Marco was pleased with the level they brought. “We drew confidence from a match like this”, said Di Marco. “Being able to fight and battle through tough and nervous situations and I think that’s why when we played UCF we were able to stick through it and get a gutsy win”.

Oregon defeated Tulsa 4-3 and went on to play Ohio State where they lost 4-0; Tulsa played against UCF the next day in the consolation round, where they stormed through a 4-1 victory. At the conclusion of the tournament, Pearson was awarded the American Athletic Conference (AAC) player of the week which he has been awarded five times throughout his career at Tulsa.

On the women’s side, Geelong’s Amy Stevens who plays at Vanderbilt University helped her team secure their spot at the ITA Winter National Indoors. Starting the event ranked #21 in the country, the women’s team traveled to North Carolina State University (NC State) as they were a top 15 school.

The Commodores powered past Furman 5-0 and then came through with a tough fought 4-3 victory over #3 ranked NC State with Stevens scraping through with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win over NC State’s Anna Zyryanova. Both victories over the ITA Kickoff Weekend have elevated the Commodores 11 spots in the ITA rankings up to #9 and are undefeated for the season.

All in all, a great weekend for our Aussie collegiate athletes with Pat Harper (Tennessee), Casey Hoole (South Carolina) and Amy Stevens (Vanderbilt) all helping their schools progress to the next stage. We also saw a great display of tennis from Tulsa’s Kody Pearson and Connor Di Marco as well as Oregon’s Josh Chalton


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