Men's Tennis Faces Major Challenge at No. 4 Baylor and No. 22 Texas A&M
Jan. 29, 2008
THIS WEEK: In an effort to build towards next month's ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships, the No. 37 Washington men's tennis team makes a difficult early-season road trip through the state of Texas this week. The Huskies (2-0) will make stops in Waco, Texas on Friday, Feb. 1 to play fourth-ranked Baylor at 1 p.m. PT. Sunday, Feb. 3, Washington has another challenge in 22nd-ranked Texas A&M in College Station, Texas at 11 a.m. PT. The Huskies opened with two home wins last weekend over Gonzaga and Portland.
SCOUTING BAYLOR: The Baylor Bears have been one of college tennis' top teams this decade, winning the NCAA Championship in 2004, finishing runner-up in 2005, and reaching the Final Four in 2006 and 2007. The Bears also produced back-to-back NCAA Singles Champions in 2004 with Benjamin Becker and 2005 with Benedikt Dorsch. Last season, Baylor fell in the NCAA Semifinals to Illinois, 4-3, finishing with a 28-4 record and ranked No. 4 in the final ITA poll. This year Baylor is off to a 3-0 start after sweeping a triple-header in one day. Senior Lars Poerschke is Baylor's top returning singles player and a two-time All-American, having finished 11th in the final rankings last season. He is currently unranked but only due to a lack of fall matches. Sophomore Denes Lukacs is currently ranked 10th in singles and already has a record of 23-5. Last season Lukacs was 25-3 in dual matches lower in the lineup. Baylor was the team that ended Washington's most recent NCAA Sweet Sixteen trip, defeating the Huskies, 4-1, in 2006. Three Bears remain who played in that match, including Poerschke who defeated former Husky Alex Slovic at No. 1 singles, plus juniors Matt Brown and David Galic. Husky senior Andy Kuharszky is the only remaining starter from that match on UW's side. Matt Knoll is the Director of Tennis Operations, in his 11th season. Baylor will also be in Seattle next month as part of the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M: The Aggies are off to an impressive 2-0 start with a 6-1 victory over No. 30 Clemson and a 4-3 win over 22nd-ranked Boise State in their last match. Junior Conor Pollack is ranked 23rd and holds down the top singles spot for Texas A&M. Senior Jerry Makowski is a very strong No. 2. Although currently unranked, he has been ranked in the top-10 throughout his career on numerous occasions and is a two-time All-American. Sophomore Chris Chirico is also ranked 90th for the Aggies. In their first two matches, Texas A&M won at No. 1 doubles where Pollock teamed with freshman Austin Krajicek, however the Aggies lost at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles in each match. Last season, the Aggies finished 15-12 with a 4-0 loss to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Championships. Steve Denton is in his second season in charge of the Aggies.
LAST TIME OUT: Washington kicked off its 2008 dual campaign with two wins over West Coast Conference foes Gonzaga and Portland. The Huskies swept the Bulldogs last Thursday, taking every set in singles and doubles. Nine sets in singles did not go past 6-1, with Andy Kuharszky, Ryo Sekiguchi, and David Chu all winning by 6-0, 6-1 scores. The next day, Washington downed the Pilots, 5-2. UW struggled in doubles play without their main lineup. Kuharszky and Brad Bator won at No. 2 doubles, but Portland won the remaining two to take a 1-0 lead. The Huskies came back with five straight-set singles wins, including the first dual win for freshman Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. The Pilots got their last point at No. 2 singles where Filip Zivkovic's big serve gave Kuharszky trouble in a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win. Junior Patrik Fischer and freshman Tobi Obenaus were both 2-0 in the matches.
2007 IN REVIEW: The Huskies reached the NCAA Championships for the 13th-straight year in 2007, but were upset by Wisconsin in the first round, 4-3, in South Bend, Ind. and finished 16-7. It was only the second time in the last seven years that UW failed to make the Round of 16. Washington tied for third in the Pac-10 Conference standings for the second year in a row. Since the Pac-10 Northern and Southern divisions merged into one on 1998, the Huskies have finished third or better only three times, all in the past three seasons. Despite the premature end to the team's run, senior Alex Slovic took a wildcard entry into the NCAA Singles tourney, and put on an amazing run to the semifinals by beating three Top-20 players. His run ended in three sets to Georgia's John Isner, a current young star on the ATP tour. Slovic earned his first career All-American honors for the effort, and finished as UW's career leader in combined singles and doubles wins with 184. He and fellow departed senior Daniel Chu finished tied with the all-time doubles wins record at 83. The Huskies finished the season ranked 35th in the nation, with Slovic ranked 25th nationally. Andy Kuharszky's 16-7 dual match record led the team, and the doubles team of Patrik Fischer and now-graduated Michael Ricks were a team-best 21-9 overall and 14-7 in dual matches.
UP NEXT: The Huskies return home after the Texas trip for their final two matches of preparation before hosting the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships. Washington hosts UC Santa Barbara on Friday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m., then plays Ball State on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 12 p.m. Both matches are at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.