COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The 15th-seeded and 15th-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team will face Binghamton in first-round action of the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship to be held on Friday, May 8 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
First serve between the Aggies and Bearcats is set for 4 p.m. (CT) preceded by a matchup between 24th-ranked Arizona (17-5) and Southland Conference champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (14-8) at 1 p.m. (CT). The winners from both first-round matches will compete in second-round action on Saturday, May 9 at 4 p.m. (CT).
The Aggies (15-8) are hosting their first NCAA regional since 2006 and earned that right by way of the nation’s third-toughest schedule, a season-high No. 11 national ranking, two top 10 dual-match victories, a seven-match regular-season win streak and a 5-1 league mark to finish in second-place in the final Big 12 Conference standings.
“We are excited to have this opportunity to play at home and in front of the 12th Man,” said Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton who was recently tabbed co-Big 12 Coach of the Year. “We have been working hard over the last two weeks in preparation for the tournament. Our players are ready. Now, it’s just the question of coming in on game day and executing. If we can do that better than the other team, then we will move on. If we don’t, we won’t. All you can do is put yourself in the best position possible and see how the chips fall.”
It will be a first-time meeting for both A&M and Binghamton (14-7) who reached the field of 64 as the America East Conference regular-season and tournament champions. The Bearcats are led by reigning America East Player of the Year Sven Vloedgraven, while the Aggies boast one of the top 1-2-3 singles lineups in the country in All-Big 12 selections Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) as well as NCAA Singles Championship qualifier Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.). Pollock is currently ranked 17th nationally in the Campbell/ITA rankings followed by Krajicek at No. 47 and Spencer at No. 48.
“They (Binghamton) have a couple of good international players,” Denton said. “For us, at this point, it is really about getting ourselves ready to play and being prepared. If we do that, then I like our chances.”
The rest of the four-team tournament field includes nationally-ranked players in No. 61 Jay Goldman of Arizona along with ranked doubles teams in No. 7 Krajicek and Pollock of A&M and No. 67 Dmitry Novikov and Mikhail Pavlov of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“We are really excited to be at home and hosting,” Krajicek said. “It is a great opportunity for us to hopefully, get back to the Sweet 16. We have a couple of tough matches ahead of us, because every team in this regional is really good. We are looking to come out and play our best tennis to put us in a good position this weekend.”
Live scoring, live video and results from the first and second rounds can be accessed via www.AggieAthletics.com.
Aggies In Postseason Play…Texas A&M is making its 17th overall NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and 16th consecutive since 1994. The Aggies have reached the Round of 16 on eight all-time occasions and the Elite Eight once in 2001. They are 23-16 all-time in postseason play and have advanced past the first round 14 times.
Match Promotions…The Texas A&M men’s tennis team would like to thank their fellow A&M students for their support throughout the season by offering free tickets to this weekend’s NCAA first-and second-round competition. The first 100 students on Friday and first 100 students on Saturday will receive free admission to the matches. If A&M wins on Friday and advances to the second round, fans will be treated to a pre-match tailgate outside of the tennis complex where free hot dogs will be grilled (while supplies last) on Saturday.
Ticket Information…Fans can purchase tickets by calling the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Center at 1-888-99-AGGIE or by going online at www.12thManFoundation.com. Ticket prices range from $12 for all-session reserved (Stadium Club seating), $7 single day reserved (Stadium Club seating), $5 single day general admission and $3 single day for students and youth.
School Ties…Texas A&M-Corpus Christi head coach Steve Moore and Arizona head coach Tad Berkowitz both return to their old stomping grounds after serving as assistants to former Texas A&M head coach and current New Mexico senior associate athletics director Tim Cass. Moore spent two seasons in Aggieland from 2004-06, while Berkowitz served one term during the 2001-02 season. Ironically, both coached the Aggies the two previous times the NCAA Tennis Championships were held in College Station in 2002 and 2005. Meanwhile, Steve Denton was the TAMUCC head coach for five seasons from 2001-06 and was a two-time SLC Coach of the Year selection in 2004 and 2005.
“Steve Moore and I have been long-time friends,” Denton said. “He is a really good coach and motivator. They (TAMUCC) did a good job of winning the Southland Conference. They are going to be a tough first-round opponent for Arizona. They will be ready to play and it will be a really close match.”
Double Trouble…The All-American doubles tandem of Austin Krajicek and Conor Pollock will compete in their second consecutive NCAA Doubles Championship on May 21-25. They recently received their second career nod on the All-Big 12 doubles team and put together an 18-4 dual match record at No. 1 doubles for the Aggies. Last year, the pair reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time in school history. They were ranked as high as No. 3 in the Campbell/ITA rankings this season and competed in the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championships as the Wilson/ITA South Central Region doubles champions in the fall.
“Conor and I are playing well right now,” Krajicek said. “We’ve had a good year so far. Hopefully, we can continue to practice hard over the next couple of weeks and go into the team championship at our peak.”
Series Records…Texas A&M is undefeated against Arizona (2-0) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-0) in the all-time series. The Aggies have never faced Binghamton, Arizona and TAMUCC in NCAA Tournament play.
What’s At Stake…The winner of the first and second rounds will advance to the combined NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships hosted by Texas A&M at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The team championship will be held on May 14-19 in College Station. Fourth-seeded and fourth-ranked Georgia (22-3) is the defending national champion.