One of my favorite annual events, the Colonial Athletic Association tennis tournament, is under way through Sunday at Old Dominion's Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center -- hopefully outdoors, but indoors if necessary.
It feels puzzling to see the lower-than-usual seeds of the tournament's entries from the 757. In men's play, William and Mary holds its lowest-ever spot, No. 6.
The Tribe will play at 8:30 a.m. Friday in a quarterfinal against UNC Wilmington, which is seeded third but has a legitimate chance to earn its second consecutive championship and third in four years.
It's likely the final collegiate competition for Jamestown High graduate Jacob Braig of W&M, the second of three brothers to play college tennis in the state.
In his fourth year at W&M -- the first of which he redshirted -- after transferring from a Christopher Newport team he helped win its conference championship in 2008, Braig has played far more often than he did in previous seasons under Coach Peter Daub.
In fact, Braig has been as high as No. 1 doubles this year for the Tribe, for which his younger brother, Zach, is a freshman reserve. Their older sibling, John, played for Mary Washington and then for CNU.
Old Dominion is seeded No. 4 and will face No. 5 James Madison, which the Monarchs edged 4-3 in an early-season match where a close doubles point proved critical. The teams split six singles matches, with none going to a third set.
Those matchups are quite unlike what had become a yearly tradition: ODU meeting W&M in a semifinal clash of seeds 2 and 3. For many seasons in the early 2000s, the tournament was pretty easy to predict -- VCU heads to the final to meet, and usually beat, the Tribe-Monarchs winner.
On the women's side, W&M is No. 4 -- its lowest seed ever -- and Coach Dom Manilla's first ODU edition is No. 5. So those teams will play each other at 4 p.m. Friday in a rematch of a contest the Tribe won 4-3.
VCU, which won the men's tournament from 1996-2004 but has been challenged more in recent years, is the top men's seed. Georgia State, which will head to the Sun Belt after next season, is No. 2.
In women's play, the top seeds are VCU, UNCW and Georgia State.
The Tribe has withered against a tough schedule but is dangerous enough to threaten the teams ahead of it. History certainly is on W&M's side -- the Tribe has won 21 CAA crowns, including every one from 1986-2000.
Georgia State upended VCU 4-2 in a semifinal last season, but W&M rose to the occasion in the championship match and beat the Panthers 4-2.
Topspin lobs ... on her serves:
Who's the most interesting player I saw Thursday, the tournament's first day? That's Delaware No. 1 Samantha Carnell, the Blue Hens' all-time singles victory leader.
I appreciate the tip from David Weiner, a former CNU player who works as a pro at Folkes-Stevens, training local juniors.
With a wicked slice forehand reminiscent of Fabrice Santoro, except with one hand, Carnall is effective enough in keeping her opponents off balance.
To that regard, Carnall also has a rare skill -- the ability to hit a second serve about 10 to 15 feet over the net, with topspin, in the court. If that "eephus" serve were a car driving through a school zone, it wouldn't be ticketed for speeding.
The senior from Hatfield, Mass., led 6-1, 4-3 in a match against Hofstra that went unfinished because the Hens had clinched a 4-0 victory.
It's worth a look if you're in the neighborhood -- Carnall, or the tournament as a whole. The passion, skill, energy and athleticism of college tennis makes it one of the best free entertainment in the world. All it lacks are thousands of fans and pep bands.
In fact, I met ODU athletic director Wood Selig for the first time Thursday and told him something of that ilk.
A preview from CAASports.com is here, and a video has been posted on the conference website:
Here are links to the all-conference teams, which were announced Thursday night:
Women: bit.ly/JihuRGAs for the scores and pairings, they're below:
First round (Thursday):
No. 8 Delaware 4, No. 9 Drexel 1
No. 7 George Mason, 4, No. 10 Hofstra 2
No. 6 William and Mary vs. No. 3 UNC Wilmington, 8:30 a.m.
George Mason vs. No. 2 Georgia State, 11 a.m.
Delaware vs. No. 1 VCU, 1:30 p.m.
No. 5 James Madison at No. 4 Old Dominion, 4
Semifinals (10 a.m. Saturday):
UNCW-W&M winner vs. Mason-Ga. State winner
JMU-ODU winner vs. Delaware-VCU winner
Final (10 a.m. Sunday):
First round (Thursday):
No. 8 Drexel 4, No. 9 Towson 3
No. 7 Delaware 4, No. 10 Hofstra 0
No. 6 James Madison 4, No. 11 George Mason 0
James Madison vs. No. 3 Georgia State, 8:30 a.m.
Delaware vs. No. 2 UNC Wilmington, 11 a.m.
Drexel vs. No. 1 VCU, 1:30 p.m.
No. 5 Old Dominion vs. No. 4 William and Mary, 4 p.m.
Semifinals (2 p.m. Saturday):
JMU-GSU winner vs. Delaware-UNCW winner
ODU-W&M winner vs. Drexel-VCU winner
Final (2 p.m. Sunday):