April 5, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After completing the road portion of its 2012 spring schedule with wins over then-No. 3 Georgia and then-No. 16 Tennessee last weekend, the No. 6 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team returns home to conclude the regular season with a four-match homestand, starting this weekend at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Ky.
The action will begin Friday when Kentucky (20-4, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) hosts SEC foe No. 10 Mississippi State (16-4, 7-1 SEC) at 4 p.m. ET. The 14th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels (10-5, 6-2) will be in Lexington on Sunday to conclude the weekend at 1 p.m. ET. The Bulldogs enter Friday’s match tied for second in the SEC standings with a 7-1 record in league play, while the Rebels are third at 6-2.
“Mississippi State is sitting tied for second in the conference right now and are an exceptional team,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “Over the last three years, their coaching staff has made them the most improved program in the nation. They are a really well-coached and talented team that went on the road to beat Florida, which tells you something about how good they are. They have three seniors that are really leading them this year so we are going to have our hands full.”
Admission to all men’s tennis home matches is free of charge. Parking for both matches is available in Parking Structure 7 next to the tennis complex. The parking structure will be under normal operation Friday, while parking will be free of charge Sunday. Live scores from both matches will also be available online at UKathletics.com.
The two contests this weekend are part of a difficult stretch of matches for Kentucky to conclude the 2012 regular season. In its final eight matches this spring, including the two this weekend and two next week, Kentucky has or will face six top-20 teams. UK has already defeated three of the six, taking down Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee. After it battles MSU and Ole Miss, the Wildcats will conclude the regular season with No. 18 Illinois and No. 40 Vanderbilt.
“Ole Miss is ranked very high in the country and for good reason,” Emery said. “They have a senior playing at the No. 2 singles position that is a two-time All-American and has a lot of experience. They also have probably the most talented freshman in the nation in Nik Scholtz at the top of their lineup. Ole Miss is one of the premiere programs in the nation and their head coach is a no-doubt hall of famer. We know how good they are and how good of a match that will be.”
UK is coming off a 2-0 weekend where it defeated then-No. 3 Georgia and then-No. 16 Tennessee. The two wins gave Kentucky 20 wins for the season, marking the third-consecutive year and only the 18th time in school history UK has earned 20 or more wins in a season. The successful weekend also moved UK to No. 1 in the SEC standings with an unblemished 8-0 record.
The Wildcats started last weekend with its first win over Georgia in Athens, Ga., since the 1997 season. The win was also Kentucky’s first over a top-three team since it defeated then-No. 2 Virginia in 2010. Sophomore Tom Jomby led Kentucky in the match, earning a thrilling third-set tiebreaking win to clinch the decisive fourth point. For his efforts, Jomby was named the SEC Player of the Week by the league office – the first such honor of his career. Overall, the sophomore went 2-0 in singles play and 1-0 in doubles action, moving his singles record to 14-3 in dual matches and a solid 7-0 against SEC teams.
Kentucky enters the weekend ranked sixth in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings. The top-10 ranking marks the 14th consecutive for the Wildcats dating back to last season. UK has been ranked in the top 10 all season long, while also earning three consecutive top-10 rankings to end the 2011 spring season.
Kentucky’s current ranking of No. 6 ties the highest of the season for the Wildcats, which were also ranked sixth on Feb. 7. The top-six rankings tie the highest for the Kentucky program since it moved to No. 6 on March 9, 2010. UK earned that ranking with four wins over top-16 ranked teams. Before the 2010 season, UK had not earned a top-six ranking since the 2002 campaign.
All 12 SEC schools are ranked in the ITA team rankings, including seven teams in the top 20. So far this season, Kentucky has played 20 matches against currently ranked teams. The Wildcats hold an impressive 7-3 record against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including three wins over top-10 teams. Since the start of the 2009 season, UK has earned an impressive 27 wins over top-25 teams.
The Wildcats have been very impressive at home the past few seasons, posting a 56-10 record at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex since the start of the 2009 season. UK is 10-1 at home this year, including a 3-0 mark against SEC foes.
Mississippi State brings a five-match winning streak into Lexington, including two wins last weekend over LSU and Arkansas. The Bulldogs are 12-1 at home or neutral venues this season, while holding a 4-3 mark on the road. MSU has four ranked singles players, including three in the top 50. Senior Artem Ilyushin leads the way at No. 15, while senior Louis Cant is 44th and senior George Coupland is 46th. Sophomore Malte Stropp completes the rankings at No. 67. The Bulldogs also have two ranked doubles duos in No. 32 Cant and Stropp and No. 43 Coupland and Ilyushin.
Ole Miss also defeated Arkansas and LSU last weekend, taking down both teams in Oxford, Miss. The Rebels currently sit second in the SEC Western Division and third overall with a 6-2 record in league play. Ole Miss has four ranked singles players in No. 19 Nik Scholtz, No. 36 Marcel Thiemann, No. 40 Jonas Lutjen and No. 61 William Kallberg. The Rebels also have four ranked doubles tandems in No. 12 Chris Thiemann and Marcel Thiemann, No. 60 Lutjen and Johan Backstrom, No. 63 Scholtz and Lutjen and No. 79 Marcel Thiemann and Lutjen.
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