No. 9 Men's Tennis Prepares for Critical SEC Weekend

March 29, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The ninth-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team looks to continue its undefeated start in Southeastern Conference action this weekend when it concludes a three-match road trip against two quality opponents in No. 3 Georgia and No. 16 Tennessee, starting Friday.

Kentucky (18-4, 6-0 SEC) will begin the weekend Friday at 5 p.m. ET against Georgia at the Dan MaGill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. The Wildcats will conclude the weekend against Tennessee on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. Live scores from both matches can be found at UKathletics.com.

The Wildcats’ match with the Bulldogs marks a showdown of the only two undefeated teams remaining in league action. UK and UGA sit tied atop the SEC standings with a 6-0 record. Kentucky’s 6-0 mark in SEC action is the best start since the 1988 team went 8-0. UK has performed well in the SEC the last few years, winning 17 of its last 21 matches.

“We know how difficult this weekend is going to be,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “This is always the toughest weekend of the season for us, including the National Indoors weekend. At National Indoors, you are playing on neutral courts, but this weekend, we have to play at two of the most difficult places to play in the nation.”

The difficult weekend for Kentucky begins a very challenging part of its spring schedule as the Wildcats will compete against five top-17 teams in its final six matches. After this weekend, UK will have four straight home matches to end the year against No. 10 Mississippi State, No. 14 Ole Miss, No. 17 Illinois and No. 38 Vanderbilt. Kentucky has performed well against quality competition with 25 wins against top-25 teams since the start of the 2009 season.

The Wildcats enter the weekend ranked ninth in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The top-10 ranking was Kentucky’s 13th consecutive dating back to last season. UK was ranked in the top 10 the last three weeks of the 2011 season, while the Wildcats have been ranked ninth or higher in every team ranking this season, including a season-best ranking of sixth on Feb. 6. Five UK players enter the weekend ranked in singles, including No. 7 Eric Quigley, No. 18 Alex Musialek, No. 22 Anthony Rossi, No. 91 Tom Jomby and No. 117 Panav Jha. Quigley and Jha are 17th in the nation in doubles.

UK has earned the high ranking after defeating some of the best teams in the nation. Kentucky has played 17 matches this season against teams currently ranked in the top 70, including a 6-3 mark against top 25 teams. So far this spring, UK has wins over No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 11 Florida, No. 15 Auburn, No. 18 Tulsa, No. 23 Indiana, No. 25 Texas A&M, No. 27 LSU, No. 33 North Carolina State, No. 39 Arkansas, No. 40 South Carolina, No. 41 Notre Dame, No. 60 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 66 Alabama.

The Wildcats are coming off a 2-0 weekend in league play where it defeated Auburn and Alabama. The Wildcats started the weekend with a dominating 4-0 win over highly ranked Auburn in Lexington before concluding the split weekend with a 4-1 road win at Alabama. Kentucky won the doubles point in both matches, taking its record this season to 12-0 when it wins the doubles point. Quigley and Rossi each earned two singles wins over the weekend, while Musialek and Jomby went 1-0 in singles.

Georgia enters Friday riding an eight-match winning streak and a No. 3 ranking in the nation. The Bulldogs are coming off a 3-0 week where they defeated No. 2 Ohio State and SEC foes Arkansas and LSU. UGA holds a 16-1 record, including an 11-0 mark at home this season.  Georgia’s lone loss this season came to No. 1 Southern California in the ITA National Indoor Championships.

Individually, Georgia has five players in the singles poll as well as five ranked doubles teams. Senior Wil Spencer continues to lead the way at No. 8 in the singles rankings, followed by Sadio Doumbia at No. 24, KU Singh at a career-high No. 32, Ignacio Taboada at No. 33, and Hernus Pieters at No. 62. In doubles, Georgia’s team of Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux sit at No. 14 this week, followed by Doumbia and Taboada at No. 23, Pieters and Taboada at No. 34, Doumbia and Nathan Pasha at No. 59, and Doumbia and Pieters at No. 68.

“I know that our team is very excited about the opportunity to play at what I consider the most renowned venue is collegiate tennis,” Emery said. “Georgia has a lot of great tradition and our guys know how important this opportunity is. I think our guys are up to the challenge of playing against Georgia and hopefully our success against them last year in the SEC Tournament semifinals will help us this season.”

UK and Georgia met twice last season, with the Bulldogs taking the regular-season showdown 4-3 in Lexington. The Wildcats would avenge the loss in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, earning a 4-0 win. The win was Kentucky’s first over Georgia since 2003 and its first away from Lexington since 1997.

Tennessee is currently riding a three-match winning streak after posting wins over top-40 ranked Baylor, LSU and Arkansas last weekend. The Vols are 11-9 overall this season, including a 3-3 mark in the SEC. UT will compete against Vanderbilt on Friday before it hosts the Wildcats on Sunday.

UT is currently ranked 16th in the nation as a team, jumping up eight spots in the latest team rankings. Individually, freshman Mikelis Libietis is No. 42 in singles, while freshman Hunter Reese returned to the singles rankings at a career-best No. 92. In doubles, Libietis and Reese remained in the top 10 but dropped one spot to eighth.

“Tennessee is always one of the hardest places in the nation to play,” Emery said. “They had a special season last year and have really done a great job of reloading and continuing their success. We have a lot of respect for them and how good they are.”

Kentucky fell to Tennessee 4-2 in the two schools only meeting last season. The Wildcats have not defeated the Vols since 2009.

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