COLLEGE STATION -- The No. 27-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team will vie for its fourth postseason championship title at the home-hosted 2008 Big 12 Conference Tennis Championships on April 24-27 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The fifth-seeded Aggies (11-10, 2-4) will face fourth-seeded Texas Tech (19-4, 4-2) in quarterfinal action set for Friday, April 25 at 3 p.m. The winner will move on to the first of two semifinal matches to be played on Saturday, April 26 at noon. Top-seeded and sixth-ranked Texas (19-4, 5-1) awaits either the Aggies or Red Raiders.
“Texas Tech has a lot riding on this match,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “They are right on the border of hosting NCAAs and they have a lot to play for. They had some disappointment this season. Had they beaten Baylor, they would have tied for first and won the conference. It just shows how strong our conference is from top-to-bottom. With one loss, you can go from being the first seed to the fourth seed. They are a very good team and are very experienced. Their whole team is comprised of juniors and seniors that have been in this situation before. I expect them to play really well and coach Tim Siegel will have them ready to play. It will be a hotly-contested match.”
A&M has hoisted the Big 12 postseason championship trophy on three occasions including 1998, 2000 and 2001 which is tied for the second-most titles next to rival UT. Baylor (18-8, 5-1) leads the pack in most tournament hardware as the Bears have laid claim to five of the 11 championship titles since the league’s inception in 1996-97. No other league school outside of the Lone Star State trio have won a Big 12 postseason title.
The Aggies have faced Texas Tech three times in postseason play and have risen to the occasion in each meeting. A&M won 5-0 in the 2001 quarterfinals, 4-0 in the 2003 quarterfinals and 4-0 in the 2004 semifinals. They have also reached the championship match fives times and ironically in two of the three tournaments in which they matched up against Tech. Oklahoma State has ended A&M’s quest for a fourth title over the last two years in the 2006 and 2007 quarterfinals.
A&M holds a 36-5 advantage in the all-time series versus Tech since 1978, but lost a close 4-3 decision in Lubbock in regular-season play on March 23. Despite the setback, the Aggies still remain a dominating force in the series having won 13 of their last 15 meetings with the Red Raiders.
Junior Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas), currently ranked No. 21 nationally in the latest ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings, headlines the young A&M roster. Pollock has posted a team-leading 20-13 overall record at No. 1 singles with 12 wins coming in dual-match play this season. He most recently defeated Texas’ top player and No. 17-ranked Dimitar Kutrovsky in a close 4-3 loss to the seventh-ranked Longhorns on April 19. It marked his eighth dual win over a ranked opponent this year. He also remains an undefeated 9-0 at No. 1 doubles with freshman Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.). The Aggie duo moved up seven spots to No. 15 nationally with an upset of then sixth-ranked Kellen Damico and Ed Corrie of UT, 8-4, as A&M claimed the doubles point for the fourth-straight match.
“The difference now is that we are playing better in doubles than when we played Texas Tech the first time,” said Denton of A&M’s improvement over the season. “We have really turned it around. We spent some time this week on individual needs and fine tuning our doubles in practice. Texas was arguably the best doubles lineup in the country. For us to beat them in Austin, says a lot for a team that went 4-14 in doubles. Overall, there were a lot of close matches that could have gone either way for us this season. Hopefully, getting to play at home with the conditions a little more conducive to our style of play will put the match in our favor.”
Texas Tech will poise a double threat in doubles as two of their top teams are ranked among the tops in the country with No. 14-ranked Christian Rojmar and Bojan Szumanski at No. 1 and No. 60-ranked Michael Breler and Sinisa Markovic at No. 2. Individually, Szumanski is ranked No. 39 in singles, while teammate Markovic is No. 107.
As a team, four of A&M’s 10 losses of the season were decided by a mere point to four top 25 teams in Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Rice and Texas. With one of the nation’s toughest schedules including quality victories over No. 10 Duke, Clemson, Boise State, Washington, Wake Forest and Louisville, the Aggies remain in contention for their 15th consecutive NCAA Team Championship appearance in the coming week.
“More importantly, we want our guys to be playing well and ready,” Denton said. “The season really starts over in May. I look at this as another opportunity to improve and get better. It’s continued preparation for us to ultimately play well during the NCAA Tournament. It is also a great opportunity for seniors Matt Bain and Mike Beatty to play their final home matches of their career.”
A&M will serve as host of the four-day postseason championship for only the third time in conference history next to 1999 and 2002. The George P. Mitchell Tennis Center, chosen as the USTA Facility of the Year in 1999, has played host to numerous intercollegiate tennis tournaments over the years ranging from USTA events to the NCAA Regionals. In 2002 and 2005, the venue served as the site of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships, and in 2009 will serve as host to both the men’s and women’s national championships.
All-Championship general admission tickets priced at $15 are available for purchase online at www.12thManFoundation.com or by calling the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Office at 1-888-99-AGGIE. Single day general admission tickets priced at $6 are also available, while college students and children will be admitted for $4. Additionally, All-Championship and single day general admission tickets can be purchased at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center Box Office.
Tournament Protocol…Each Big 12 Championship match will be played on six courts and will be stopped immediately when a team reaches four points. Live scoring updates of all Texas A&M men’s tennis matches will be available at www.AggieAthletics.com. The tournament champion receives the league’s automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship. The men’s and women’s selection announcements will air between 2 and 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday, April 29, on ESPNews. ESPNews is located on DirecTV Channel 207 and DishNetwork Channel 142. Additionally, the ESPNews audio signal will be available on the ESPNews channel on XM Radio and SIRIUS Radio.
Aggies In Postseason Play…Texas A&M is 15-8 all-time in Big 12 Championship play. The Aggies picked up their first-ever postseason conference championship title in 1998 in Lincoln, Neb. The Aggies did not surrender a point blanking Oklahoma (5-0), Kansas (4-0) and Texas (4-0) en route to the title. In 2000, the Aggies duplicated their 1998 efforts by claiming their second Big 12 title without allowing their opponents to register a point. A&M topped OU (4-0), UT (4-0) and Baylor (4-0). Then in 2001, A&M grabbed its third crown after defeating Texas Tech (5-0), Oklahoma State (4-1) and UT (4-1). In 2002, the Aggies served as hosts and reached the finals. They beat Colorado (4-0) and UT (4-3), before dropping a 4-3 decision to BU. In 2003, the Aggies topped Tech (4-0) before falling to BU (1-4) in the semifinals. In 2004, A&M reached the finals again by topping Colorado (4-0) and Tech (4-0) before succumbing to BU (0-4). In 2005, A&M reached the semifinals beating CU (4-1) and later falling to OSU (2-4). In 2006 and 2007, the Aggies lost to OSU in the quarterfinals (2-4) and (1-4).
A&M Match Promotions…The 12th Man Team Rewards Program will be on hand each time the Aggie men and women play throughout the Big 12 Tennis Championships. Fans can collect extra stamps to earn their next reward or be entered into the drawing for the $5,000 Best Buy Shopping Spree.