April 11, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After clinching at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season title last week with two wins over top-15 ranked teams, the seventh-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team will break from conference action to host No. 23 Illinois on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Ky.
Admission to the match is free of charge, while fans are encouraged to park in Parking Structure 7 next to the tennis facility. The parking structure will be under normal operation. Live scores and a live interactive blog will be available online at UKathletics.com.
“Illinois is one of the elite programs nationally,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “They have won an NCAA Championship and have been in the NCAA Finals in recent history so they have some great tradition. They have two of the top players in the country in Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich. I think we are anxious to play this match because we lost in a heartbreaker to them last year. Hopefully, we can focus in and play well against a quality non-conference opponent.”
Kentucky (22-4, 10-0 SEC) is coming off a historic weekend where it defeated two quality opponents to clinch at least a share of the SEC regular season championship. The Wildcats started the weekend with a 6-1 win over No. 10 Mississippi State before earning a 5-2 victory over No. 14 Ole Miss to seal the SEC title.
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.
Senior Eric Quigley paced the Wildcats throughout the weekend, earning two wins over top-20 ranked singles players. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., defeated both No. 15 Artem Ilyushin and No. 19 Nik Scholtz in singles and has now earned 12 wins over ranked foes this spring. For his efforts, Quigley was named the SEC Player of the Week for the second time this season. The honor was the fourth of the season for Kentucky after junior Anthony Rossi won in February and sophomore Tom Jomby grabbed the honor last week.
Kentucky was again well represented in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association team, singles and doubles rankings, which were released Tuesday. As a team, the Wildcats sit seventh in the nation, increasing its streak of consecutive top-10 team rankings to 15 weeks. 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. UK was ranked sixth last week, which tied the highest team ranking of the season.
The Wildcats have been impressive this season against quality opponents, earning an 18-4 record against teams currently ranked in the ITA team rankings. Kentucky is 8-3 this season against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including four wins over current top-10 teams. Since the start of the 2009 season, UK has won 29 matches against top-25 teams.
An impressive total of six UK players are ranked in singles this week, including Quigley, who is third in the nation. The top-three ranking for the senior ties his highest of the season and is just one off his career-high ranking of second. Quigley is having a great senior season, sitting at 43-6 overall and 10-0 against SEC competition.
Fellow senior Alex Musialek remained in the top 20 this week, moving up three spots to 15th. The ranking for Musialek is the second highest of the season and the best since he was 13th on Jan. 3. The native of Dax, France, is 12-5 in dual matches this season, including a 6-3 record against SEC foes.
French natives Rossi and Jomby each earned impressive rankings this week, sitting at No. 22 and No. 67, respectively. Rossi has remained in the ITA singles rankings all season long, including a career-high ranking of 13th on Feb. 16. So far this season, the native of Marseille, France, is 18-4 in dual matches and 6-3 vs. SEC opponents. The top-70 ranking for Jomby is the highest of his young career. The native of Nantes, France, is 15-4 this spring and 8-1 in SEC matches.
Sophomores Alejandro Gomez and Panav Jha conclude the rankings for Kentucky. Gomez, who is a native of Cali, Colombia, enters the rankings for the first time since March 13 at No. 104, while Jha, who is from Pointe Claire, Montreal, is ranked 110th in the nation in singles.
For the first time this season, Kentucky has two doubles duos represented in the ITA doubles rankings. Quigley and Jha headline the rankings at No. 11, which is a career-high ranking for the duo. The tandem is 9-9 this season at the No. 1 singles position, while holding a winning record against SEC foes. The French duo of Musialek and Rossi enter the doubles rankings this week for the first time this season at No. 55. Musialek and Rossi are 7-2 this spring and 6-2 against SEC duos.
Illinois enters the match Thursday ranked 23rd in the nation as a team after falling five spots in the latest team rankings. The Illini are 12-4 this season and 6-1 in the Big Ten. Illinois has won seven of its last eight matches with the only loss in that stretch coming against then-No. 28 Michigan. Two Illinois players are ranked in singles in No. 5 Dennis Nevolo and No. 38 Roy Kalmanovich. Nevolo and Kalmanovich are also 25th in the nation in doubles.
Kentucky and Illinois have met annually since 2004 with Illinois leading the series during that stretch 6-3. UK has won two of the last three against the Illini, including both matches that were played between the two schools in 2010. Last year, UK lost 4-3 to No. 16 Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The two programs have played tight matches since the series started in 2004 with six of the nine meetings ending in 4-3 decisions.
The Wildcats have been nearly unbeatable at home the past several seasons, posting a 58-10 record at the Boone Tennis Center since the start of the 2009 season. UK is 12-1 this season at home, including wins over some of the best teams in the nation.
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