By (Ben Boynton)

When the SEC Tournament comes around each year, the Alabama women’s tennis team usually has a target on its back. The Crimson Tide is typically one of the higher seeds in the conference and is only two years removed from 2014, when it finished as the runner up in the tournament after being the regular-season champions.

This year’s tournament is different.

When the No. 14 seed Crimson Tide takes on the No. 11 seed Missouri Tigers on Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it will be in an unfamiliar role as the underdog. None of the current players on the roster have ever been in this low of a seed. In fact, none of them have ever been below the fifth seed that Alabama faced last season. The last time Alabama was a double-digit seed was 2008, when the Crimson Tide was the 11th seed.

Alabama (4-17, 0-13 SEC) and Missouri (16-11, 3-10 SEC) faced each other on March 20 in a match Missouri won at home, 4-3. It was one of Alabama’s six 4-3 losses. The Tigers’ three wins are the most the program has had in the SEC since joining the league.

The winner of the match will move on to the second round, where it will face No. 6 seed Texas A&M on Thursday. Alabama lost to the Aggies earlier in the season on March 5 in Tuscaloosa.

Unless Alabama wins the SEC Tournament, it will likely not participate in the NCAA Tournament. Only 32 at-large bids are available, and the Crimson Tide’s strength of schedule is unlikely to balance out its record enough to be selected.

As far as singles play goes, Alabama will likely be represented in the NCAA Tournament. Junior Erin Routliffe is ranked 27th nationally after a season that included a 9-4 record in the SEC, and freshman Andie Daniell is ranking 49th nationally, having earned nine wins over ranked opponents in her first season with the Crimson Tide. Doubles play is less certain. Alabama has the No. 64 pairing of Routliffe and Daniell, and the No. 75 pairing of Routliffe and senior Natalia Maynetto. One of those pairs could potentially receive an at-large bid.

Alabama will start its SEC Tournament play against Missouri at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports