Men's Tennis Notebook: Team Ranked 7th in the Nation

Feb. 23, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky men’s tennis team dropped only one spot to No. 7 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association team rankings after going 1-2 in the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships last weekend, the association announced Wednesday.

Kentucky (10-2) started the event last weekend by taking down then-No. 11 Texas A&M 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since a semifinal appearance in 1997. UK fell in its next two matches at the event to then-No. 3 Ohio State 4-3 and No. 9 Stanford 4-1.

The Wildcats started the season ranked seventh in the nation, before moving up to No. 6 on Feb. 7. The top-six ranking tied the highest for the UK program since it moved to No. 6 on March 9, 2010. Before the 2010 season, UK had not earned a top-six ranking since the 2002 campaign.

Last Thursday, the ITA announced the most recent set of singles and doubles rankings with Kentucky being only one of two schools in the nation to have six singles players ranked. It is the first time in program history that UK has had three players ranked in the top 20 in singles at the same time. No. 6 Eric Quigley leads the rankings, followed by No. 13 Anthony Rossi and No. 20 Alex Musialek. Completing the rankings are sophomores No. 79 Tom Jomby, No. 87 Alejandro Gomez and No. 119 Panav Jha.

Kauffmann to be Nominated for Assistant Coach of the Year: UK men’s tennis associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann will be nominated for the ITA Assistant Coach of the Year award, which is given annually to the best assistant coach in the nation.

“It’s a bit of a misnomer because he is actually our associate head coach, but I think everyone is recognizing how good Cedric is,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “He should win the national award in my opinion. I think it was never more obvious the impact he can have on a match then at the National Indoors when we swept Ohio State at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles and the next day OSU was in the process of sweeping Virginia on those same courts when the match ended. While everyone sees the work at the matches, what they don’t see is how good he is on the practice court and the recruiting trail. He is the complete package.”

Kauffmann, who was a three-time singles All-America honoree from 1996-98 at Kentucky, has helped lead the UK program to new heights since his return to campus in August 2005. During his six years as a coach, Kauffmann has led UK to two seasons of 25 wins or more, five NCAA Tournament berths and three top-15 final rankings. Last year, Kauffmann helped UK post a school-record 29 wins en route to the school’s fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

The native of Montsoult, France started in August 2005 as an assistant coach before earning a promotion to associate head coach before the 2010 season. This fall, Kauffmann was elected into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame for his outstanding career on the court in the late 1990s.

Anthony Rossi Continues Stellar Junior Season: UK men’s tennis junior Anthony Rossi is having a fantastic season on the court for the Wildcats, posting a 26-2 record overall and an unblemished 9-0 record in singles action.

Rossi, who was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week on Wednesday, had a perfect 3-0 weekend in singles action at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Rossi defeated Junior Ore of Texas A&M to begin the weekend, before taking down Peter Kobelt of Ohio State in the quarterfinal match. Rossi ended the weekend with a win over Bradley Klahn of Stanford, who is a two-time singles All-America honoree and was the 2010 NCAA Singles Champion. All three singles wins were in straight sets.

“Bradley Klahn should be top 10 at the end of the year, and Anthony is building a great resume with his solid play,” Emery said.

The native of Marseille, France began his season on a strong note by winning the Duke Fab Four Invitational with a victory over current No. 2 Henrique Cunha of Duke. Rossi ended his fall season by earning the singles title at the SEC Coaches’ Indoor Championships with a straight-sets victory over then-No. 10 Sadio Doumbia of Georgia. The singles title was UK’s first in the annual event since the 1989 season.

Rossi, who plays the No. 3 singles position for Kentucky, is currently ranked a career-best 13th in the nation in singles. The junior began the season ranked 95th in singles, before he moved up to No. 36 before the start of the dual-match season.

Kentucky’s Dual-Match Schedule is One of the Toughest in the Nation: Year in and year out, the Kentucky men’s tennis team plays one of the toughest dual-match schedules in the nation and 2012 is no different.

So far this season, Kentucky has faced nine teams that are currently ranked in the ITA top 75, including seven top-30 teams and five top-25 teams. UK has already posted victories this season over No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 13 Pepperdine, No. 19 Tulsa, No. 26 Indiana, No. 29 Notre Dame, No. 48 North Carolina State and No. 56 Michigan State. The Wildcats’ two losses have come against No. 2 Ohio State and No. 9 Stanford.

Kentucky has 13 matches left against ranked foes this season, including a rematch with No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. UK will also face No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 Florida, No. 14 Auburn, No. 15 Mississippi State, No. 16 Baylor, No. 18 Illinois, No. 21 Tennessee, No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 28 LSU, No. 40 Vanderbilt, No. 46 South Carolina and No. 49 Alabama.  

“Our tough schedule is the product of a National Indoors that saw us face a tough Tulsa team in the kickoff weekend and then three top-12 teams in Charlottesville at the national event,” Emery said. “When you add that into the fact that we play in the toughest conference in America and a loaded non-conference slate, you get a very challenging schedule.”

SEC is Nation’s Toughest Conference Again: One of the main reasons for Kentucky’s difficult schedule is the byproduct of having to play in the hardest tennis conference in the nation, the SEC.

“I feel like last year’s SEC, with four teams finishing top nine, was very strong, but this field is even deeper,” Emery said

An impressive total of 11 SEC schools are ranked in the top-75 team standings, including three in the top 10, five in the top 15 and seven in the top 30. Georgia leads the league at No. 4, while Florida is sixth, Kentucky seventh, Auburn 14th, Mississippi State 15th, Tennessee 21st, Ole Miss 22nd, LSU 28th, Vanderbilt 40th, South Carolina 46th and Alabama 49th. Arkansas is the only SEC school not ranked, however, the Razorbacks were ranked earlier this season. Texas A&M, which enters the SEC next year, is currently ranked 12th.  

By comparison, the Atlantic Coast Conference also has 11 teams ranked, but only three in the top 30, while the Pac-12 has seven ranked teams, including four in the top 10 and five in the top 30. Five Big XII teams are ranked in the top 30, while the Big Ten has four top-30 teams.

Ohio State Flawless at Home: Kentucky will travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in a rematch of the ITA National Indoor quarterfinals match played last Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

Grabbing a win over the Buckeyes will not be an easy task for the Wildcats as Ohio State has won 135 consecutive home matches dating back to the 2002-03 season, which is the longest active streak in the nation.

Kentucky has had success breaking some streaks the past few seasons. Most recently, UK ended then-No. 2 Virginia’s 78-match regular-season winning streak in 2010 when they defeated the Cavaliers 4-3 in Lexington. UK also snapped Ole Miss’ 23-match SEC winning streak in 2010, handing the Rebels their first league loss in two years.

In 2005, Kentucky defeated then-No. 2 Illinois at the Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center, snapping its 38-match home win streak dating back to March 7, 2002.

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