Men's Tennis Looks for Outright SEC Title Against Vanderbilt

April 13, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coming off a dominating performance Thursday against No. 23 Illinois, where it won the doubles point and posted five wins in singles action, the seventh-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team turns its attention to clinching the outright Southeastern Conference Championship when it plays host to No. 43 Vanderbilt on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

The match will be played at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex, while admission for fans is free of charge. The first 50 fans in attendance Saturday will receive a free UK tennis t-shirt. The match will also serve as the annual Fraternity-Sorority Challenge, where the fraternity/sorority with the most members in attendance will win a free high-definition television. Parking for the match is available in Parking Structure 7 next to the tennis facility. For fans that cannot attend, live scores and a live interactive blog will be available on UKathletics.com.

“Vanderbilt is a very good team and we are going to have to really be ready to play,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “They have lost a lot of close matches this year and those teams are always dangerous because they are hungry to win. I hope we can have a big crowd out at the match to give our players some extra energy and a home court advantage.”

With a win over Vanderbilt, Kentucky (23-4, 10-0 SEC) can clinch the SEC regular season title outright. UK has already earned at least a share of the title after rolling to a school-record 10-0 start in league play. The Wildcats hold a one-match lead in the standings over No. 4 Georgia, who UK defeated 4-3 in Athens, Ga., on March 30. A loss by Georgia, who will complete the regular season at No. 15 Tennessee on Saturday, would also clinch the outright title for Kentucky.

This is Kentucky’s second overall SEC title in school history. The 1992 team was also named the overall SEC Champion. However, the title was determined by a point system combining both regular season and tournament results. UK finished tied for first in the SEC regular season in 1992, but was not officially named the SEC regular season champion. The league started recognizing SEC regular season champions by league records in 2000.

The Wildcats are currently riding an eight-match winning streak, including wins over some of the best teams in the nation. Over its last eight matches, Kentucky has faced six teams that were or are currently ranked in the top 25 in the nation, winning all six matches. Last weekend, UK posted strong outings against No. 10 Mississippi State and No. 14 Ole Miss with the win against the Rebels clinching at least a share of the SEC title.

All told, UK has a 19-4 record against teams currently ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association team rankings, including a 9-3 mark against teams currently ranked in the top 25. Since the start of the 2009 season, UK has won 30 matches against top-25 teams, while posting a 59-10 record at home during that span.

Kentucky was impressive Thursday against highly ranked Illinois, taking down the Illini 6-1 in the final non-conference showdown of the year for UK. Seniors Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek led the way for UK in singles with both players posting wins over ranked foes. Quigley, who is ranked third in the nation in singles, took down No. 5 Dennis Nevolo, while No. 15 Musialek posted a win over No. 38 Roy Kalmanovich. Junior No. 22 Anthony Rossi, and sophomores No. 67 Tom Jomby and No. 104 Alejandro Gomez also won singles matches. UK started the win by earning the doubles point, increasing its record to 16-0 this season when it wins doubles.

“A big key to the match tomorrow will be the doubles point,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “If we can come out and set the tone early in doubles then I think we have a good chance to win the match. Our players in the middle of the lineup have played great here in the last third of the season and we are going to need that to continue.”

Vanderbilt enters the weekend ranked 43rd in the nation with a 7-13 record, including a 2-8 mark against SEC opponents. The Commodores have lost five consecutive matches this season, all to highly ranked foes in No. 4 Georgia, No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 14 Ole Miss, No. 15 Tennessee and No. 16 Auburn. VU has two ranked singles players in No. 34 Charlie Jones and No. 94 Gonzales Austin and one ranked doubles duo in No. 17 Austin and Alex Divalerio.

For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow “UKMensTennis” on Twitter or like “University of Kentucky men’s tennis team” on Facebook.