April 8, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind a dominating performance in singles action that included a come-from-behind effort from senior No. 7 Eric Quigley for the decisive fourth point of the match, the sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team clinched a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with a 5-2 win over No. 14 Ole Miss on Sunday at the Hilary. J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Ky.
“The Ole Miss match is always a really tough match to win,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “Ole Miss has such a championship pedigree with so much tradition for the past 15 or so years. Coach (Billy) Chadwick is a hall of fame coach, who makes all the right moves. They are so tough to beat because they have unbelievable talented and are so well coached. We are very pleased with this win today.”
Kentucky (22-4, 10-0 SEC) continues its school-record start in league play with the victory, shattering the old mark of 8-0 by the 1988 team. The victory also clinches at least a share of the SEC regular season title for the Wildcats. UK will need to defeat Vanderbilt next weekend at home in its SEC finale to seal the SEC title outright. Georgia, who is second in the SEC with a 9-1 record, plays at Tennessee next Saturday to conclude its SEC schedule. A Bulldog loss would also clinch the outright SEC title for Kentucky.
“It is really hard to say what it means to have clinched a share of the SEC title,” Emery said. “It is a dream come true for our guys because they have worked really hard. The great thing about tennis is it’s all about the players. They are the ones out there working hard and giving everything they have. This is a very special group to me. Eric (Quigley) and Alex (Musialek) came to us when we were ranked about as low as we have ever been ranked. Those two guys came in here and turned around our program in terms of their work ethic and character. They have done a great job of recreating the culture of Kentucky tennis.”
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.
“This means so much,” UK senior Alex Musialek said. “We have been working so hard the past three or four years to play matches like this. Every year our goals have increased and when we set goals up at the beginning of this season the SEC Championship was one of them. Today is probably one of the best days I have had here the past four years. This one is special.”
After No. 14 Ole Miss started the match by winning the doubles point, Kentucky quickly took momentum back to its side by winning five first sets in singles. After junior No. 22 Anthony Rossi and sophomores No. 91 Tom Jomby and Alejandro Gomez each won in straight sets, Kentucky led the match 3-1 needing only one more point to clinch the key SEC victory.
That clinching point would come from senior co-captain No. 7 Eric Quigley at No. 1 singles over No. 19 Nik Scholtz. Quigley and Scholtz held serve for most of the first set before Scholtz was able to grab a break and then hold serve for the 6-4 win. But Quigley would respond in the next two sets, getting early breaks in both to clinch the victory. In the second set, Quigley jumped out to a big lead and rolled 6-2, before starting the third set with a key break and then holding serve to go up 2-0. Both players then held serve two times before Quigley was able to break to go up 5-2 and then held serve to grab the set and clinch the win for Kentucky.
“It was very fitting that Eric got to clinch the point,” Emery said. “He is a guy that has been an anchor on our team and someone that we have built our program around. I know it means a lot to him. In his four years we have steadily gotten better and I think he would tell you this was a total team effort from 1-to-11.”
“It feels unbelievable,” Quigley said about clinching the match. “For me to be able to clinch out there, it just doesn’t get much better than that, especially to do it in front of my family, all of our fans and Mr. (Mitch) Barnhart (UK Athletics Director). This team is something special not only on the court but off the court.”
The win continued Quigley’s success this season as the senior is now 20-1 in dual matches and an amazing 10-0 against SEC opponents. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., is the winningest singles player in school history with a career singles record of 161-45. Quigley has been ranked in the top seven of the ITA singles rankings all season, while Kentucky has not lost a match this season when Quigley wins in singles.
No. 91 Jomby tied the team score at 1-1 with his impressive straights sets win at court four. Jomby dominated the first set against No. 61 William Kallberg 6-2, before earning a key break late in the second set and then holding serve to grab the match 6-2, 6-4. The native of Nantes, France, is now 15-4 in dual matches this season and 8-1 against SEC opponents.
Rossi, who is ranked 22nd in the nation in singles, gave Kentucky a 2-1 lead in the match after taking down No. 40 Jonas Lutjen in straight sets. The native of Marseille, France controlled the entire match against Lutjen, winning the first set 6-2 before rolling in the second set 6-1. Gomez would then push Kentucky’s lead to 3-1 when he took down Johan Backstrom 6-3, 6-4 at court five.
“I thought that the key to the match was how well Tom Jomby and Anthony Rossi played in their first sets,” Emery said. “Anytime you lose the doubles point, you want to try to answer with a strong showing in singles and we did that today. For Tom and Anthony to almost have locked up their matches before (Eric) Quigley and (Alex) Musialek had finished their first set was huge. I am really happy with how they played today.”
After Quigley clinched the decisive fourth point for Kentucky, two matches remained on court. UK would win one of those matches with sophomore Grant Roberts defeating Adrian Skogeng 6-3, 7-5 at court six. Ole Miss would grab its lone win in singles at court two with No. 36 Marcel Thiemann earning a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 18 Musialek.
The Rebels won the doubles point behind wins at courts one and two. UK started the winning in doubles with Gomez and Jomby grabbing an 8-4 win over Backstrom and Kallberg at court three. Ole Miss would win the other two matches with No. 12 Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann defeating Musialek and Rossi 8-4, while No. 63 Scholtz and Lutjen took down No. 17 Quigley and Panav Jha at court one 8-6.
“I think that we played really hard in doubles, but they just played a little bit better,” Emery said. “They are a very difficult team to beat in doubles because they play a top-20 doubles tandem and the defending National Indoor runners-up at court two. We knew going in that it would be tough to win the doubles point against them so we did not lose any confidence or get rattled after the doubles point.”
The win on Sunday continues UK’s recent surge against quality opponents as the Wildcats have now won seven consecutive matches, including five against top-25 teams. Kentucky is an impressive 9-3 against teams currently ranked in the top 25 this season, while also posting four wins over top-10 teams. Since the start of the 2009 season, Kentucky has won an impressive 29 matches against teams ranked in the top 25.
The victory also continues Kentucky’s dominance at home the past few years. The Wildcats are now 58-10 at home since the start of the 2009 season, including a 12-1 mark at the Boone Tennis Center this season.
Emery’s Wildcats will be in action again Thursday when it goes out of conference to face No. 18 Illinois at home. The match is set to begin at 1 p.m. ET with free admission for fans. A live interactive blog will be available online for fans as well as live scores from each match.
For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow “UKMensTennis” on Twitter or “University of Kentucky men’s tennis team” on Facebook.
Southeastern Conference Dual Match
No. 6 Kentucky 5, No. 14 Ole Miss 2
Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex – Lexington, Ky.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
1 – No. 7 Eric Quigley (UK) def. No. 19 Nik Scholtz (OM) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
2 – No. 36 Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. No. 18 Alex Musialek (UK) 6-2, 2-6, 2-6
3 – No. 22 Anthony Rossi (UK) def. No. 40 Jonas Lutjen (OM) 6-2, 6-1
4 – No. 91 Tom Jomby (UK) def. No. 61 William Kallberg (OM) 6-2, 6-4
5 – Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. Johan Backstrom (OM) 6-3, 6-4
6 – Grant Roberts (UK) def. Adrian Skogeng (OM) 6-3, 7-5
1 – No. 63 Nik Scholtz/Jonas Lutjen (OM) def. No. 17 Eric Quigley/Panav Jha (UK) 8-6
2 – No. 12 Marcel Thiemann/Chris Thiemann (OM) def. Alex Musialek/Anthony Rossi (UK) 8-4
3 – Alejandro Gomez/Tom Jomby (UK) def. Johan Backstrom/William Kallberg (OM) 8-4
Order of Finish
Singles – 4, 3, 5, 1*, 2, 6
Doubles – 3, 2, 1*