Tough SEC Openers For Tide Tennis
Alabama will be playing against the same two schools on the opening weekend of SEC competition, but the Crimson Tide men's team will play at home while the Bama women go on the road.
The No. 25 ranked Alabama men's tennis team (6-5) opens up SEC play this weekend by hosting a pair of matches at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. The Crimson Tide will battle No. 11 Georgia (7-2) on Friday at 2 p.m. (CST) and No. 2 Tennessee (11-1) on Sunday at 1 p.m. (CST). Sunday's match will serve as Campus Kids Day that will include a chance for children to hit tennis balls before the match, meet Big Al, stencil their racquets with the Alabama logo ‘A' and eat free pizza. Admission to all tennis matches is free.
"It was very positive for us to get three wins last weekend and get back on the winning track heading into conference play; however, we start off with a very challenging weekend with Georgia and Tennessee," said Coach Billy Pate. "Without question, these are two of the top teams in the country, and we'll need to play our absolute best. We've had great success at home so far and look forward to great support from our home crowd."
Last weekend, Alabama won a trio of matches at home to build some momentum heading into conference action. On Friday, the Tide took down then No. 16 Pepperdine 4-2, led by wins in singles and doubles from sophomore Ricky Doverspike. In doubles, Doverspike teamed up with fellow sophomore Michael Thompson to pick up an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles, while fighting through a tough three-set match to win at No. 2 singles 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Senior Saketh Myneni also picked up a huge win, defeating No. 44 Bassam Beidas 6-2, 6-2 on court one, moving his ranking up to No. 38 in the nation. Sophomore Michael Davis clinched the victory for Alabama with his three-set win at the No. 6 position.
On Sunday, the Tide dominated a doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky and Winthrop. Alabama swept the Colonels 7-0 before handily defeating the Eagles 6-1. Freshman Jarryd Botha won convincingly in both of his singles matches, dropping a combined eight games in four sets. The Tide was dominant in doubles as well, taking all six of the matches. With the three wins on the weekend, Alabama moved to 6-0 at home for the season.
The Georgia Bulldogs enter the weekend coming off a 6-1 defeat over then No. 65 Furman at home on Monday. That win moved Georgia to 6-2 on the season against teams currently ranked in this week's ITA Division I Men's rankings. The Bulldogs have three players ranked in the singles rankings, led by junior Javier Garrapiz, who is ranked No. 29. Garrapiz and fellow junior Drake Bernstein team up to form the No. 34 doubles duo in the nation. Georgia owns a commanding 49-8 advantage in the all-time series with the Tide, with Alabama's last win coming in 2003.
The Tennessee Volunteers head to the state of Alabama after bouncing back from its only defeat of the season to down No. 20 Wake Forest 4-3 Sunday in Winston-Salem, N.C. Tennessee started the season 10-0, including making a run to the finals of the Wilson/ITA National Indoor Championships, falling to No. 1 Virginia 4-1. The Vols have four players ranked inside the top 100 in singles, including junior John-Patrick Smith, who checks in this week at No. 4. Tennessee also has three doubles team ranked in the top 10, but only two of them have seen playing time this spring. The Vols lead the all-time series with the Tide 35-11, not having lost to Alabama since 2006.
Next up, the Tide hits the road for the first time in SEC play, traveling to take on South Carolina and Florida. Alabama will take on the Gamecocks on Friday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. (CST) and Florida on Sunday, March 14 at 1:00 p.m. (CST).
The No. 50 Alabama women's tennis team (6-3) opens up SEC action this weekend, playing at No. 17 Georgia (4-3) and No. 11 Tennessee (6-4). The Crimson Tide will face the Bulldogs on Friday at 1 p.m. (CST) and the Lady Vols on Sunday at Noon (CST).
"We've played a solid non-conference schedule to help prepare us for the SEC season," said Coach Jenny Mainz. "I'm encouraged with our progress and the steps our team continues to take forward each week."
Last weekend, Alabama picked up two home wins to run its winning streak to four matches and its home record to a perfect 5-0. On Saturday, the Tide came back to defeat then No. 32 TCU 4-3. Alabama once again was forced to win four singles matches after dropping the doubles point, as only the tandem of sophomore Courtney McLane and freshman Alexa Guarachi was able to pick up a win. Guarachi also notched a huge singles win against the Horned Frogs, knocking off No. 78 Kayla Duncan 7-5, 6-1. The Tide freshman is currently ranked No. 78 in singles. The match came down to a couple of three see decisions, which were both claimed by Alabama. Freshman Antonia Foehse fought through a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 match, while junior Meritt Emery clinched the win with her 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on court four.
On Sunday, the Tide had a much easier time with Eastern Kentucky. Alabama only dropped two games in the three doubles matches, while winning all but one of the singles matches in straight sets. The Tide lost only one game in six sets on courts four, five, and six. Senior Alice Tunaru had a stellar weekend in singles, giving away a total of three games in her two matches.
Georgia enters Friday's match after a lengthy break, not having played since a 5-2 loss to then No. 6 Miami on Sunday, Feb. 14 as part of the Wilson/ITA National Indoor Championships. All seven of the Bulldogs' opponents so far this season are ranked in this week's poll. Georgia has faced its fair share of ACC foes this season, currently holding a 2-3 record against those teams. All three of the teams the Bulldogs faced at the National Indoor Championships were teams from the ACC. Georgia has two singles players ranked inside the top 25, with sophomore Chelsey Gullickson at No. 6 and fellow sophomore Nadja Gilchrist at No. 23. Gullickson and Gilchrist also check in at No. 7 in the doubles rankings. Alabama has only defeated the Bulldogs once, in 1977, as the all-time series currently sits at 33-1 in favor of Georgia.
Tennessee enters the weekend in a bit of a slump, having lost its last two matches after beginning the season 4-0. The last loss came at the hands of No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend, with the Lady Vols able to take the doubles point but unable to hold the momentum during singles play. Tennessee is 5-4 against nationally ranked teams, and remains undefeated at home on the season, holding a 4-0 record so far. Senior Caitlin Whoriskey and junior Maria Sorbello are the two Lady Vols ranked in the current singles rankings, coming in at No. 10 and 47 respectively. Whoriskey and her doubles partner sophomore Natalie Pluskota are the current top doubles team in the nation. Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Tide 25-13, last losing to Alabama in 2005.
"This is where our season begins," added Mainz. "We will have many opportunities in March and April. We need to be ready to capitalize on them."
Next up, the Tide opens up its home portion of conference action next weekend, hosting South Carolina and Florida. Alabama welcomes the Gamecocks to the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium on Friday, March 12 at 3:00 p.m. (CST) and the Gators on Sunday, March 14 at 1:00 p.m. (CST).
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