COLLEGE STATION -- The No. 33-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team gets ready to host No. 34 Texas Tech in its Big 12 Conference opener on Friday, March 30 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
First serve between the Aggies (13-5, 0-0) and Red Raiders (10-5, 1-0) is set for 6 p.m. Friday’s match will mark the 40th all-time meeting between the two schools. A&M has been on a hot streak with three consecutive dual match wins against ranked opponents in No. 22 Tulsa, No. 40 New Mexico and No. 74 TCU all in a week’s time. In preparation of league play, the Aggies ventured outside of the Lone Star State to compete against some of the nation’s best in USC, UCLA and Illinois. Playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, A&M posted an impressive 13-5 mark against non-conference foes. All five of its losses of the season have come against teams ranked in the top 15 or higher.
Texas Tech enters the match having already started off the conference season with a 4-3 victory at No. 75 Nebraska on March 25. The Big 12 boasts six member schools this season (Colorado dropped its men’s tennis program) all of which are ranked in the latest ITA/FILA Collegiate Tennis Rankings including No. 4 Baylor, No. 12 Texas, No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 23 Oklahoma.
Last season, the Aggies compiled a 4-3 record in league play with victories over Nebraska, Baylor, Oklahoma and Tech. A&M has six more matches remaining on its schedule before heading to the 2007 Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships on April 26-29 in Kansas City, Kan. The tournament winner will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. The Aggies are vying for its first conference title since 2001 and have made 15 consecutive NCAA team appearances.
“We are showing signs of coming together as a team and are looking to keep up the momentum we have built in non-conference play,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “We have prepared for this throughout the spring season and now, it is time to see what we can do against some really tough, well-coached Big 12 teams.”
Both squads boast nationally-ranked singles players and doubles teams. Sophomore Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and junior All-American Jerry Makowski (Bradenton, Fla.) are ranked No. 104 and No. 114 respectively in the latest ITA/FILA singles rankings, while Texas Tech’s top player Bojan Szumanski comes in at No. 33. Szumanski also partners with teammate Christian Rojmar for the No. 34-ranked doubles duo in the country, while senior Bryan Wooten (Houston, Texas) and junior Mike Beatty (Cincinnati, Ohio) are ranked No. 41.
Pollock is currently on a five-match winning streak with a team-leading 12-4 record in dual match play and is an undefeated 4-0 at the top of the lineup for the Aggies. Meanwhile, Wooten and Beatty have won their last two matches and have compiled an 8-2 doubles record. Seniors Brett Joelson (Beaverton, Ore.) and John Nallon (Garland, Texas) are riding a three-match winning streak in singles, while freshman Clay Donato (Toronto, Canada) has won his last four. Nallon (10-1) is one of three A&M players to reach 10-or-more victories in dual match play behind Pollock (12-4) and junior Matt Bain (12-3).
A&M holds a 35-4 advantage in the all-time series versus Tech. The Red Raiders have only won four times in 39 all-time meetings between the two schools in 1989, 1991, 1997 and 2005. Last year, the Aggies pulled off a 4-3 victory on Tech’s home court in Lubbock, Texas. Pollock won the last match standing with a three-set victory over Christian Rojmar at No. 3 singles.