No. 22 Kentucky Blanks No. 8 Texas A&M in SEC Showdown

March 7, 2014

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 22 University of Kentucky men's tennis team recorded its biggest win of the 2014 season on Friday night, blanking the No. 8 Texas A&M University Aggies, 4-0, in front of a capacity crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.

Kentucky with the win ups its season record to 10-4 overall, and is now an unblemished 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play heading into its bye date on Sunday afternoon. Texas A&M suffers just its fifth loss of the season and the Aggies fall to 11-5 overall and their first SEC loss of the season.

"That's a great win for the boys today," UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. "We competed very consistently throughout the lineups and we played like we can today against a very good Texas A&M team. I thought us not going to the National Indoors got us really sad and disappointed and we had to make a choice. We had to continue to do the same things we were doing, or we had to take a step up. We decided we were going to step up the physicality in our practices and we aren't going to stop. This is just one win in the SEC. We will get back to work tomorrow." 

The doubles point was filled with three tight matches, as the deciding match came on court one. Senior Tom Jomby and sophomore Kevin Lai were facing the No. 1 overall team in the country, in Texas A&M's Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow. Jomby and Lai served first and jumped out to a 5-4 lead after nine service holds to begin the matches. Jomby and Lai then broke at 6-5 to go up 6-4 before being immediately broken back to square the match at 7-7, as they headed to a tiebreak. 

In the tiebreak, Jomby and Lai raced out to a 4-1 lead and held their serve the rest of the way to record their biggest doubles win of the season on court one, knocking off the top-ranked team in the nation, 7-4 in the tiebreak.

Court two was the first to finish in doubles, as sophomore Beck Pennington and senor Alejandro Gomez combined to record an 8-5 win on court two, and give UK the 1-0 lead in doubles. Pennington and Gomez broke at 4-3 to take the 5-3 lead in the match before they were immediately broken back. After two service holds, Pennington and Gomez served out an 8-5 win after picking up another break at 6-5.

In singles, Jomby continued his great start to the season, winning in straight sets on court one, 6-3, 6-4 over No. 11 Harrison Adams. Jomby is now 13-1 on the season in singles, and 3-0 in SEC play so far through two weekend of action.

"I'm really proud of Tom and the way he is conducting himself on the court," Kauffmann said about Jomby. "The way he is playing every single point, he is one of the best players in the country right now, for sure."

"This is a good win for the team," Jomby said. "This was a good Texas A&M team that we were playing and a good win against a top-10 team. This is good for our confidence. We knew we had the ability to beat top-10 teams and we just had to compete at the level we know that we could to get it done. We are working really hard to become one of the best teams in the country. Today we showed it on the court. The crowd really helped us, so we thank them and I also have to thank the coaching staff because they prepared us to play this match really well."

Kentucky moved its lead to 3-0 when No. 99 Beck Pennington toppled his second-straight ranked opponent on court three, winning 6-3, 7-6 (8) over No. 38 Jeremy Efferding. Pennington took an early lead in the first set and after leading 5-3 and going up a break, served out a 6-3 set win at love to take the one set to none lead. In the second set, there were no breaks of serve as the Bowling Green, Ky., native was forced into a tiebreak to decide the second frame. Pennington and Efferding fought back and forth, with Pennington jumping out to an early 4-1 lead before Efferding won five of the next seven points to lock up the tiebreaker at 6-6. Pennington then got the mini-break back at 7-6 and won a point on Efferding's serve for the 8-6 win.

"We played Texas A&M away last year and it was a bad match for us," Pennington said. "We knew this was going to be a great team that we were playing. I was just proud of my boys and the way we came out in the doubles. Just seeing the bounce-back from earlier in the season was good. We played relaxed and focused with the great crowd behind us, so that was good to see. I'm just proud of Jerry (Lopez) and Tom (Jomby), as well as Alejandro Gomez's fight. He had a tough first, but he was coming back. Tom is a great leader for us and one of the best players in the country." 

Freshman Jerry Lopez, who clinched Kentucky's wins last weekend at No 73 LSU and at No. 66 Arkansas came through in the clutch again, as he knocked off Junior Ore on court four, 6-2, 7-6 (6) to clinch the win for Kentucky. It's the third-straight clinch for the freshman from Pureto Vallara, Mexico, as he now has won five-straight matches overall in 2014. 

Lopez came out scorching, winning the first set, 6-4, after jumping out to an early 5-0 lead in the opener. Lopez had a chance to serve for it and was broken and was forced to serve it out at 6-2. In the second set, there were no breaks until Lopez broke Ore at 4-4 to take the 5-4 lead and serve for the match. After falling behind 15-40, Lopez dropped his serve and Ore forced a tiebreaker. In the tiebreak, Lopez and Ore were knotted at 3-3 in the changeover and again were tied 5-5 before Lopez took the 6-5 lead after two points on his serve. The freshman then won a point on Ore's serve to close out his match, and the match overall, with Kentucky winning 4-0, and Lopez winning the tiebreak, 8-6. 

"I told Beck and Jerry I was very proud of the youngsters," Kauffmann said. "I think they have been working really, really hard throughout this year at UK and it paid off in a big match today because if he plays like that, we can beat anybody."

The win for Kentucky puts the Wildcats at 3-0 overall in SEC play heading into its bye date on Sunday afternoon. UK will continue its three-match homestand with the two Magnolia State schools coming to Lexington next weekend, as UK will face Mississippi State on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET and Ole Miss on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Agate

No. 22 Kentucky 4, No. 8 Texas A&M 0

Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center - Lexington, Ky.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Doubles (Order of finish: 2, 1, 3*)

1- Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) def. No. 1 Junior Ore/Jackson Withrow (TAMU) 8-7 (4)

2- Beck Pennington/Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant (TAMU) 8-5

3- No. 37 Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo (TAMU) def. Ryuji Hirooka/Nils Effefsen (UK) 8-6

Singles (Order of finish: 1, 3, 4*)

1-. No. 14 Tom Jomby (UK) def. No. 11 Harrison Adams (TAMU) 6-3, 6-4

2- Alejandro Gomez (UK) vs. No. 26 Shane Vinsant (TAMU) 2-6, 6-4, 1-1 (DNF)

3- No. 99 Beck Pennington (UK) def. No. 38 Jeremy Efferding (TAMU) 6-3, 7-6 (8)

4- Jerry Lopez (UK) def. Junior Ore (TAMU) 6-2, 7-6 (6)

5- Grant Roberts (UK) vs. Jackson Withrow (TAMU) 2-1 (DNF)

6- Ryuji Hirooka (UK) vs. Jordan Szabo (TAMU) DNS

For continuing coverage of UK men's tennis, log on to UKathletics.com.