Men's Tennis Hosts South Carolina, Florida in Opening Weekend

March 8, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Coming off an eight-match road trip where it faced some of the best teams in the nation, the No. 7 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team will play host to its Southeastern Conference home opener this weekend when it faces No. 33 South Carolina and No. 9 Florida at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Ky. Admission to all men’s tennis home matches is free of charge.

Kentucky (13-3, 2-0 SEC) will begin the weekend Friday at 1 p.m. ET against South Carolina (10-3, 0-2 SEC), before it hosts top-10 ranked Florida (8-4, 1-1 SEC) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Live scores from both matches will be available at UKathletics.com, while an interactive online blog will be available for fans to follow along during the South Carolina match.

“This is clearly a very big weekend for us,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “It is important to us that we win our home matches and we feel that both of these matches this weekend could help position ourselves for a run at the conference championship. South Carolina is one of the most improved teams in the nation and Florida is obviously one of the favorites to win the league. It should be a fun weekend filled with great tennis.”

The Wildcats performed very well in their first SEC weekend of the year, taking down two ranked foes. UK started the weekend with a 5-1 win over No. 17 LSU before it traveled north to Fayetteville, Ark., to defeat the 47th-ranked Razorbacks 6-1. Kentucky won the doubles point in both matches, moving its record to 9-0 this season when it grabs the doubles point. Sophomore No. 98 Tom Jomby led UK in singles with a 3-0 record, while seniors No. 6 Eric Quigley and No. 16 Alex Musialek, and sophomores Grant Roberts and No. 107 Alejandro Gomez each posted two singles wins.

Kentucky’s win over LSU was its 23rd over a top-25 team since the start of the 2009 season, while its victory over Arkansas was the ninth over a ranked foe this season. UK has also defeated then-No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Pepperdine, No. 22 Tulsa, No. 29 Indiana, No. 30 Notre Dame, No. 53 Michigan State and No. 57 North Carolina State.

On Tuesday, UK moved up two spots to No. 7 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association team rankings. The ranking makes UK the second-highest ranked team in the SEC, sitting one spot behind sixth-ranked Georgia. The Wildcats’ began the season ranked seventh before moving up to No. 6 after a 10-0 start. Kentucky fell to ninth last week.

This weekend’s matches begin a five-match homestand for Kentucky. The Wildcats have been nearly unbeatable at home the past few season, posting a 52-9 record at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex since the start of the 2009 season. UK is 6-0 at home this season.

South Carolina lost its first two SEC matches of the season last weekend in Columbia, S.C., falling 6-1 to No. 6 Georgia and 5-2 to top-20 ranked Tennessee. Before the two losses, the Gamecocks jumped to No. 22 in the ITA rankings, which was their highest ranking since April 2005. Nick Jones is the lone ranked singles players for USC, coming in at No. 92. Kentucky faced South Carolina only once last season, defeating USC 5-2 in Columbia. UK leads the all-time series against the Gamecocks 22-11.

“Again, we feel that South Carolina has got a lot better from last season,” Emery said. “To go from the bottom of the rankings to where they are now really says a lot about coach (Josh) Goffi and what he has been able to do there the last few years. He is a very enthusiastic coach and his team feeds off that with an energetic and aggressive style of play. We know it is going to be a hard-fought match.”

Florida is coming off a 1-1 start in SEC play. The Gators defeated Tennessee 4-3 in its conference opener before dropping a tight 4-3 decision to Georgia to end the weekend. Both matches were played in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators have two ranked singles players in No. 51 Bob van Overbeek and No. 70 Spencer Newman. UF has three ranked doubles teams in No. 8 Nassim Slilam and Billy Federhofer, No. 18 Tripper Carleton and Newman and No. 43 van Overbeek and Andrew Butz.

The Wildcats and Gators played three thrilling matches last season with Kentucky winning two of the three contests. UK earned a 4-3 win over Florida during the lone regular-season showdown, which marked UK’s first regular-season win in Gainesville since 1988. The two faced off again in the SEC Tournament finals in Gainesville with Florida posting a 4-0 win. Kentucky got revenge in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, defeating Florida 4-2 to roll on to the quarterfinals of the event. UF leads the all-time series 36-14.

“Florida is again one of the best teams in the league and a traditional national power,” Emery said. “We had three very competitive matches with them last year and I don’t expect anything less this year. Great programs don’t rebuild, they reload, and that is what Florida does. They replace great players with great players and always seem to be top 10 in the nation no matter what type of roster turnaround they have. They are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Georgia last week, so we know they will be fired up and ready to play this weekend.”

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