Kansas City, Mo. – (Bracket) (Match Schedule) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the bracket for the 2012 NAIA Women's Tennis National Championships, held May 15 - 19 in Mobile, Ala. The 32nd annual event is hosted by the Mobile Tennis Center.
#21 Seeded Bethel College will take on #12 Shorter University (Ga.) at 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 15. The winner between Bethel/Shorter will compete against Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). Bethel gained access to the NAIA National Championship Tournament by defeating Friends University (5-0) and Tabor College (5-0) in the KCAC Postseason Tournament. Bethel earned the #1 KCAC seed by going undefeated in conference play.
The 24-team field is comprised of 12 squads who earned an automatic berth by winning their respective conference/independent/unaffiliated group tournaments, 10 at-large selections, one who earned an automatic bid by way of a conference regular-season champion in Fresno Pacific (Calif.) and one host berth, which went to Spring Hill (Ala.). The 10 at-large selections were determined by the final NAIA Women's Tennis Coaches' Top 25 Poll released Monday.
The single elimination, head-to-head tournament will commence with eight first-round matchups on May 15 starting at 9 a.m. CDT. The top-eight seeds received a first-round bye and will begin action on May 16 at 9 a.m. The event culminates on May 19 with the championship final slated for 10 a.m.
Top-ranked defending national champion Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) leads all qualifiers with 11 national championships all-time, including seven of the last eight and eight since the team head-to-head format began in 2000. Brenau (Ga.), which owns two national titles, and Fresno Pacific, a one-time team champion, are the only other two qualifiers in this year's field who hold national championships. Auburn Montgomery's 45-3 record in championship play also tops the field.
Four programs, Auburn Montgomery, fifth-seeded Azusa Pacific (Calif.), sixth-seeded Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) and 15th-seeded Indiana Wesleyan have made the field every single year since the championships moved to a team format in 2000. A total of 10 schools will be appearing at the National Championships for at least the 10th time since 2000. Seventeen of the 24 qualifiers return to the championships after appearing last season.
On the other hand, two squads will make their first-ever appearances at the National Championships: Northwestern Ohio and Robert Morris (Ill.) A total of seven teams will be seeking their first wins on the National Championship stage.
The Golden State Athletic Conference and the Southern States Athletic Conference lead all leagues with five members each in the field of 24.