Washington Visits Georgia For National Team Indoor Qualifying
Jan. 27, 2009
THIS WEEK: The Husky men's tennis team travels to the home of the two-time defending NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs to compete in the qualifying rounds for the 2009 ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Washington, ranked 34th, will be part of a four-team draw including the third-ranked Bulldogs, and No. 44 Indiana and No. 52 South Carolina that will send one winner on to the National Indoor finals. The Huskies (3-1) will play the Hoosiers on Friday, Jan. 30, at 9 a.m. Eastern time, then either the Bulldogs or Gamecocks on Saturday at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m.
THE ITA NATIONAL TEAM INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: This is the first year where the ITA has instituted qualifying rounds for the premier team indoor event. In the past, the 16 teams were invited to participate based on the previous season's final rankings. Illinois, as host of the final site, gains automatic entry, with the other 15 teams earning their way in through the four-team qualifying brackets. All 15 spots will be up for grabs this weekend as part of the ITA's 'Kickoff Weekend.' Washington has hosted the National Team Indoor Championships on five occasions, including last season. UW's best finish was a tie for fifth-place in 2001 when they defeated Georgia and Florida. Last year the Huskies upset Alabama in the back draw to finish tied for 11th.
SCOUTING INDIANA: The 44th-ranked Hoosiers started their season with three matches in one day, defeating Eastern Kentucky, Toledo, and Gardner-Webb on Jan. 17. In New Mexico last weekend, IU opened with a sweep of the New Mexico Military Institute, but then suffered consecutive 4-3 losses to No. 42 New Mexico and No. 75 Texas A&M Corpus Christi to find themselves at 4-2. Freshman Jonathan Schroeder has started 5-0 in singles play to lead the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are very young, with senior Peter Antons being the only upper-classman. Last season, first year head coach Randy Bloemendaal led the Hoosiers to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2001, where they fell 4-3 to Vanderbilt to finish 16-10. The Huskies and Hoosiers have never met in men's tennis.
SCOUTING GEORGIA: The Bulldogs are currently ranked third coming off their second NCAA Championship in a row last year. Last season they upset No. 1-ranked Virginia in the NCAA semis and then defeated Texas, 4-2, to defend their title. Georgia's season-opener is today (Tuesday) against Clemson. Knocking off Georgia on its home courts will be no easy task, as the team has won 47-straight matches at home dating back four years. Georgia has two highly ranked singles players in No. 18 Nate Schnugg and No. 35 Jamie Hunt. Schnugg and Hunt are also ranked 40th in doubles. Last season Georgia earned a 4-2 win over Washington in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoors. UW's Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan had one of his biggest wins of the season, upsetting then-No. 17 Schnugg, 6-3, 6-4. Ryo Sekiguchi also defeated current Bulldog senior Josh Varela at sixth singles. Georgia owns a 3-1 edge in the all-time series and is led by Manuel Diaz, now in his 21st year at the program's helm.
SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks improved to 3-0 on the season with a 5-2 win over Georgia Tech last Saturday. In that match, South Carolina got singles wins from their third through sixth players and took the doubles point. They opened the season with a double-header victory over Wofford and Troy. Last year, South Carolina went 11-13 and lost to Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC Championships. Junior Diego Cubas has played No. 1 singles thus far for South Carolina and is ranked 42nd by the ITA. Freshman Ivan Machado is also ranked 105th. Longtime Gamecocks head coach Kent KeMars is in his 24th season at South Carolina. He was the 1989 National Coach of the Year. This would potentially be the first meeting between UW and South Carolina.
LAST TIME OUT: The 34th-ranked Husky men's tennis team fought valiantly but was unable to come away with the win as No. 1-ranked Ohio State defeated UW, 6-1, Sunday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The Huskies picked up a point from junior Derek Drabble, who upset the nation's 77th-ranked singles player at the No. 5 position. The Huskies hung tough in a very intense doubles point, but the Buckeyes held on in the end. At No. 2 doubles, senior Patrik Fischer and Drabble held a 6-4 lead, but OSU's Bryan Koniecko and Steven Moneke grabbed the momentum and took the final four games to win, 8-6. The No. 1 doubles match saw Husky sophomore Martin Kildahl and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan fight back from 4-7 down to level their match with Justin Kronauge and Matt Allare at 7-7. With OSU already having clinched the point, the teams played a tiebreak two games early, and the OSU players ran off the final three points to win, 7-5. OSU won the first four singles matches in straight sets, but Drabble put the Huskies on the scoreboard with his win over Uzawa. Leading 5-4 in the first set, Drabble broke Uzawa's serve to get the win. Drabble also broke in the second set to close out the match, winning 6-4, 6-4. Facing two of the top singles players in the nation in the top two spots, Fischer and Nedunchezhiyan each had moments of stellar play but the experience of the Buckeyes held up when it mattered most. Fischer went against Koniecko, the nation's current No. 1 player, at the top singles match. Down a set, Fischer went on a run in the second set, and took a 5-3 lead to serve for the set. Koniecko, however, was able to break back, and saved three set points in the next game before holding and winning the final two games to secure the win. At No. 2 singles, Nedunchezhiyan faced third-ranked Moneke, and grabbed the first set, 6-3. Moneke won the second set by the same score, and with the match already clinched, the two played a super-tiebreak in place of a full third set, which Moneke won, 10-5.
UP NEXT: Oklahoma and Boise State visit Seattle to play in the Great Northwest Shootout, where the three teams will face off against each other over three days. On Friday, Feb. 6, UW will play 71st-ranked Oklahoma at 4 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The next day, the Sooners and 37th-ranked Broncos will match up, then the Huskies will play the Broncos on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 12 noon.
2009 SEASON PREVIEW: After an influx of six newcomers last season, with nine players in their first or second year on the team, inexperience mixed with talent to produce an up and down season that ended in the first round of the NCAA Championships. This year, having lost only one starter, Andy Kuharszky, the Huskies as a whole are one year older and wiser and hope that their games will reflect that. Washington has seven returning players that started seven or more dual matches last year, led by senior Patrik Fischer, and sophomore Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. Fischer and Nedunchezhiyan held the top two singles spots last season, with Fischer earning All-Pac-10 Second Team honors and Nedunchezhiyan getting honorable mention. Veterans Derek Drabble and David Chu are back and should be entrenched in the singles lineup, along with sophomore Martin Kildahl, who came on strong at the end of 2008 and could find himself playing much higher in the order. For a complete season preview with head coach Matt Anger's thoughts on the season, visit www.gohuskies.com.
THE SCHEDULE: Once again Washington has assembled a nonconference schedule featuring several of the elite teams in the nation to challenge them, along with the always difficult Pac-10 conference slate. The first major test for the Huskies comes just two weeks into the season, as UW hosts Ohio State on January 25. The Buckeyes finished last season ranked third in the nation and with several returning All-Americans, are one of the favorites for the 2009 title. After the Ohio State match, the Huskies will head across the country to Athens, Georgia, home of the two-time defending NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs. This year is the first time that the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which Washington routinely hosts, has expanded to include qualifying rounds. Four-team qualifying brackets will be held throughout the country, with Washington, Indiana, and South Carolina entered in the bracket hosted by Georgia. The Huskies will play Indiana on January 30, with the winner potentially facing Georgia for the right to play at National Team Indoors in Chicago. Also highlighting the home schedule is the Great Northwest Shootout held from February 6-8. This year's event is a three-team round robin between Washington, Oklahoma, and Boise State. Other significant home matches include Oregon (Feb. 20), Fresno State (Feb. 22), Minnesota (March 6), Texas A&M (March 8), Arizona (March 29), and California and Stanford on April 10th and 11th, respectively. The Huskies also make a trip to Malibu where they will play Michigan in a neutral site match on Feb. 27, before going up against Pepperdine on March 1. The Wolverines were 16th in the final ITA rankings last season, while the Waves finished 12th. Washington will also make a trip to the L.A. schools in early April, and conclude the year with its annual trip to the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. from April 23-26.
HEAD COACH Matt Anger: The turning point in modern Washington tennis came with the hiring of Matt Anger, now entering into his 15th season as head coach. Since his arrival, the Huskies have been a model of consistency, and consistently excellent at that. The winningest coach in Washington history, Anger's teams have never once missed the NCAA Championships and have been a fixture in the Top-25 with five runs to the NCAA Round of 16 in this decade alone. Under Anger's watch, Washington has posted a winning record in all of his 14 seasons, and won its first ever Pac-10 title in 2005 as Anger was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Furthermore, several of Anger's players have seen tremendous individual success, with seven of the top eight winningest players in UW history competing during his tenure. Five different singles players have earned All-American honors under Anger, 10 different players earned year-end Top-50 rankings, and Alex Vlaski captured the 2003 ITA All-American Championships, the first national title for a Husky since 1924. In addition, Anger is the only active coach who over the past 10 years, has guided three different players to the NCAA Singles Semifinals. Anger played collegiate tennis at USC from 1982-84 and was a three-time All-American, while leading the team to a top-five finish three consecutive years. In 1983, he was a Pac-10 singles finalist and helped lead the Trojans to a third-place NCAA finish. The next season, Anger won the Pac-10 doubles championship, was a Pac-10 singles semifinalist, and helped USC win the conference team title. At the conclusion of his junior season, Anger entered the pro ranks and played on the pro tour for eight years (1984-91). He earned his highest ATP singles ranking of No. 23 in the world in 1986.