Husky Men To Face No. 2 Seed Virginia In Sweet 16 Showdown Saturday

May 18, 2005

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THIS WEEK: Riding a six-match winning streak, including a pair of NCAA regional victories over Oral Roberts and USC last weekend, the Washington men's tennis team (20-4) prepares to face No. 2 seed Virginia (26-2) in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship in College Station, Texas, Saturday, May 21 at 10 a.m. PT. No. 15 seed Washington is making its 11th consecutive NCAA appearance and has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years. Saturday's winner will face either UCLA or Tennessee in the quarterfinals Sunday, May 22, at 11 a.m. PT. The NCAA team finals continue through Tuesday, May 24 with the final scheduled for 4 p.m. PT.

SCOUTING VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers are enjoying one of the best seasons in the nation and in program history this year. They have rolled to a 26-2 record and are currently riding a 15-match win streak. The 2005 ACC Champions, Virginia's only two losses have come to undefeated No. 1 Baylor. Virginia has a whopping seven players that appear in either the ITA singles or doubles rankings. Junior Doug Stewart leads the Cavaliers at No. 12, freshman Somdev Devvarman ranks 30th, junior Rylan Rizza sits 33rd, junior Darrin Cohen is 81st, and sophomore Marko Miklo comes in at No. 112. Rizza and Nick Meythaler are 21st in the doubles rankings, while Devvarman and Treat Huey are 39th. Washington and Virginia played three common opponents this year; Minnesota, Stanford, and UCLA. The Huskies defeated Minnesota 4-0, Stanford, 5-2, but lost 5-0 to UCLA. Virginia had a 7-0 win over Minnesota, a 4-1 victory over Stanford, and notched a 4-2 win over UCLA, however the Bruins played without their top singles player.

HUSKIES PREVAIL IN NCAA REGIONAL: To reach the Round of 16, the Huskies first had to come out on top in last weekend's NCAA Regional. The winners of the 16 regionals all advanced to College Station. Washington played host to an NCAA Regional for the first time in program history last weekend, welcoming Oral Roberts, SMU, and USC to Seattle. In the first round, Washington had no trouble with Oral Roberts, sweeping the Golden Eagles, 4-0. The Huskies took an easy doubles point, then senior Alex Vlaski, and sophomores Alex Slovic and Mike Ricks earned straight-set singles wins to clinch the victory. Ricks had wins in singles and doubles for the first NCAA wins of his career. Washington advanced to face 21st-ranked USC in the second round, the Trojans having dispatched SMU, 4-1. Again, the Huskies came out firing in doubles play, taking the top two matches for the early lead. The 18th-ranked pair of Slovic and sophomore Daniel Chu defeated the 35th-ranked USC duo of Jamil Al-Agba and Johan Berg, 8-3, at No. 1 doubles. USC battled back in singles, winning three of the first four singles matches. Only senior Christoph Palmanshofer registered a win, upsetting No. 55 Drew Hoskins, 6-4, 6-3, at No. 2 singles. Trailing 3-2, the UW needed wins from Vlaski and Slovic at first and third singles. Vlaski came back from down a service break in the third set of his match with 19th-ranked Al-Agba to pull out a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win in his last home match. Moments later, Slovic had three match points on his serve at 5-4 in the third set against No. 92 Berg, but Berg came back to break serve. Slovic answered back with a service break of his own and then finished off the win in the next game as the Huskies celebrated just their third ever victory over USC.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Washington has been an NCAA tourney participant every season since 1995. Four of the past five years now the Huskies have reached the Round of 16, including three consecutive appearances from 2001-03. However, the Huskies have never advanced into the NCAA Quarterfinals. Eight of the past nine years the Huskies have advanced at least to the second round, only losing in the first round in 2000. This season marked the first time the Huskies were chosen to host an NCAA Regional. Last year, the Huskies won their opener against New Mexico (4-0) before falling to host-school Stanford in the second round (4-2). Washington is 12-10 all-time in NCAA dual matches.

TRIO TO COMPETE IN NCAA INDIVIDUAL TOURNEY: Three Huskies were selected to participate in the individual singles and doubles portion of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, May 25-30. Senior Alex Vlaski and sophomore Alex Slovic will each compete in the singles draw, while Slovic and sophomore Daniel Chu will team up to play in the doubles competition. Vlaski will be making his fourth NCAA singles apperance. He reached the semifinals as a sophomore in 2003 and knows what it takes to win a national title, having won the ITA All-American Championships in 2003. Vlaski earned the No. 8 seed in the 64-player field. Slovic will be making his second-straight NCAA singles apperance after advancing to the second round as a freshman last year. It will be his first chance in the doubles draw. Chu's doubles selection is the second of his career after making the trip with Vlaski last season, but the pair lost in the first round. Senior Christoph Palmanshofer recently moved onto the alternate list where he sits in seventh.

VLASKI SETS WINS RECORD: Senior All-American Alex Vlaski now stands alone atop the Washington career singles wins list. The Belgrade, Yugoslavia native surpassed the record of 108 wins formerly shared by former Huskies Matt Hanlin and Chet Crile during his run to the finals at the Pac-10 Championships. Vlaski's career record of 111-31 is the highest singles winning percentage in UW history at .781. Vlaski was unranked at the start of the spring season, yet has already climbed up to sixth. Based on the current rankings, Vlaski has eight wins over top-25 players this year, including Oregon's Sven Swinnen (No. 9), San Diego's Pierrick Ysern (No. 10), two wins over Cal's Conor Niland (No. 13), two over USC's Jamil Al-Agba (No. 19), and one against Texas Tech's Radek Nijaki (No. 20) and Pepperdine Pedro Rico (No. 25). Winner of the 2003 All-American Championships, Vlaski is the only Husky to earn All-American honors in two separate years: 2003 and 2004.

PAC-10 TITLE: By completing their Pac-10 slate with a 6-1 mark, the 2005 Washington men's tennis team earned a share of its first Pac-10 title and secured their place in Husky history. Since the Pac-10 north and south divisions merged in 1998, the Huskies had never finished higher than fourth in the conference, and no school other than Stanford, USC or UCLA had taken the conference crown. The Huskies finished in a first-place tie with the Bruins at 6-1. Washington made their move early on, sweeping Stanford and California in the first week of Pac-10 play to announce themselves as a legitimate contender. The Huskies handled the Cardinal, 5-2, in the conference opener, for only their third series win over Stanford. A dramatic 4-3 win over Cal was one of the year's turning points, as seniors Alex Vlaski and Christoph Palmanshofer both won third-set tiebreaks within seconds of each other to pull out the win. A disappointing 5-0 loss to UCLA was followed by a thrilling 4-3 upset of USC. Again, just the win itself was historic in that it was only Washington's second win over the Trojans in 22 tries. The Huskies then took care of business in their final three matches, holding off Arizona, 4-2, then downing Arizona State and Oregon by 6-1 scores. Against Stanford, Cal, USC, and Arizona State, prior to this season the Huskies were a combined 14-89.

HUSKIES REACH SINGLES, DOUBLES FINALS AT PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIPS: After achieving the team's first Pac-10 title, the Huskies were looking to add more hardware to their mantle at the individual Pac-10 Championships, April 21-24 at Ojai, Calif. The Huskies fell just short of completing a rare trifecta of titles, as senior Alex Vlaski lost in the singles final and sophomores Alex Slovic and Daniel Chu lost in the doubles final. Stanford's Sam Warburg was the common factor in hampering the Huskies' hopes. Warburg sent Vlaski to a third loss in the Pac-10 final, pulling out a 7-5, 7-5 win for his second-straight Pac-10 singles title. Warburg then teamed with KC Corkery to take out Slovic and Chu, 8-6, in the doubles final. For Vlaski, a third loss in the finals was tough to take, but he could take solace in his semifinal win over Cal's ninth-ranked Conor Niland, which was the 109th singles win of Vlaski's career, setting a new Washington record. Furthermore, the 15 wins Vlaski posted in his four years at the Ojai stand as a career best for any college player. Other strong showings were turned in by Slovic in the singles draw, who nearly ousted Warburg in the quarterfinals, losing in a third-set tiebreak to the eventual champ. Senior Peter Scharler also advance to the quarterfinals of the Invitational singles draw.

PALMANSHOFER BREAKS THROUGH: Key to the Huskies' success this year has been the stellar season turned in by senior Christoph Palmanshofer. After a preseason No. 61 ranking as a junior, Palmanshofer had an up and down season, finishing 12-10 in dual play and dropping from the rankings. This year, Palmanshofer began the season ranked 88th, and has maintained a solid presence in the rankings with his excellent performance in dual play. Palmanshofer, a native of St. Georgen, Austria, leads the Huskies with a 17-5 dual record and his 23 singles wins is a team high. He has six wins over ranked opponents this year. Palmanshofer has been ranked as high as 37th this season, a career high, and is currently No. 65. The senior started dual play with a 10-0 record, and recently provided the clinching wins in key conference duals against California and Arizona State. Palmanshofer is listed as an altermate for the NCAA singles championship.

SLOVIC RETURNS TO FORM: Sophomore Alex Slovic's freshman season was going to be tough to top. The native of Pancevo, Yugoslavia finished as the highest-ranked freshman in the country at No. 27, and was named ITA National Rookie of the Year. His sophomore campaign picked up where the previous season had finished, as Slovic beat four ranked opponents en route to claiming the consolation bracket at the All-American Championships in the fall. However, a rib injury sidelined Slovic at the start of the dual season, and then suffered some uncharacteristic losses upon his return, and was only 4-3 through his first seven dual matches. Since that point, however, Slovic has worked himself back into form, and won 11 of his last 12, losing only to second-ranked Sam Warburg in a third-set tiebreak in the Pac-10 Championships. Slovic was a perfect 6-0 in conference play, dropping only one set. He also continues to excel on the doubles court in his young career. Already Slovic has appeared in the doubles rankings with four different partners over the past two years, including his current 18th-ranked pairing with Daniel Chu.

DOUBLES TAKES SHAPE: The Huskies seem to have found the right formula for doubles success recently. Their current line-up has produced an 8-2 record in the doubles point. The No. 1 doubles team of sophomores Alex Slovic and Daniel Chu quickly gelled into one of the hottest duos in the country, taking down four top-40 teams in first six dual matches together, including an 8-1 rout of defending NCAA Champions KC Corkery and Sam Warburg of Stanford. Slovic and Chu reached the final of the Pac-10 Championships doubles tournament, and are currently ranked 18th in the nation while being selected to participate in the upcoming NCAA Doubles Championships. Also impressive has been the play of Alex Vlaski and Christoph Palmanshofer at No. 2 doubles. The senior pair are 8-1 at second doubles in the new line-up and 5-1 in Pac-10 duals. Their 13-5 mark is the most wins for any Husky tandem. Anchoring the No. 3 doubles spot over the past seven dual matches has been sophomore Mike Ricks and freshman Andy Kuharszky. Kuharszky and Ricks are 7-6 at third doubles, picking up big wins against Stanford and Arizona. Washington is now 17-7 in the doubles point.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Huskies have hovered just outside the top-10 of the ITA Rankings recently, settling now at No. 12. Continuing to rise through the singles rankings is senior Alex Vlaski, who is back in the top-10 at a season-high No. 6 rank. Vlaski has steadily risen through the rankings after being unranked at the start of dual play. His career high came last year when he achieved a No. 2 national rank. Sophomore Alex Slovic ranks 44th in singles while senior Christoph Palmanshofer is the third ranked Husky, coming in at No. 65. In the May 2 doubles rankings, Slovic and sophomore Daniel Chu earned a No. 18 rank on the heels of their run to the Pac-10 doubles final.

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