COLLEGE STATION -- A pair of Big 12 Conference foes are up next as the No. 28-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team embarks on a two-match road swing through the state of Oklahoma this weekend against two of the nation’s top 35 programs.
With three more matches remaining on the regular season slate, the Aggies (14-7, 1-2) will face No. 32 Oklahoma (16-4, 0-1) on Friday, April 13 at 6 p.m. and No. 14 Oklahoma State (13-1, 1-0) on Sunday, April 15 at 1 p.m. A&M is looking to snap a two-match losing skid which includes close losses to No. 4 Baylor on April 3 and No. 15 Texas on April 6. The Aggies are currently tied for fourth in the latest league standings as seeding nears for the Big 12 Championship on April 26-29 in Kansas City, Mo.
“Each match is important at this point of the season,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “Not only do you try to position yourself for the Big 12 Tournament, but more importantly, you try to maintain a high level of confidence. We will face two more quality opponents in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, because our conference is so tough this year with evenly matched teams. We will go up there with the mindset of playing hard like we have been doing and hopefully, some of these close matches will turn in our favor. The recent play of Conor (Pollock) and Jerry (Makowski) have solidified the top of our lineup, but we still need more production from our other guys and having them all play their best at the same time.”
Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) improved to an undefeated 3-0 in Big 12 action at No. 2 singles with a straight-set victory over Texas’ Miguel Reyes Varela on April 6. He is currently on a team-leading eight-match win streak dating back to March 15. Pollock has faced seven ranked opponents in his last 13 matches including top singles players from USC, UCLA, Michigan, Hawaii, Duke, TCU and Baylor. The 2006 Big 12 Freshman of the Year carries a team-best 15-4 record in dual match play, while teammate Makowski is an unblemished 2-0 at No. 1. Makowski and Pollock currently lead all Big 12 players by position at No. 1 and 2.
Oklahoma is still searching for its first conference win after falling to Nebraska (5-2) on March 30. The Sooners are led by freshmen Vaclav Kucera and Andrei Daescu who are ranked No. 58 and No. 103 respectively in the latest ITA/FILA Collegiate Tennis Rankings. All eight players on the OU roster hail from the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Russia, Romania and Australia.
Similar to OU, seven of the eight players on the OSU roster are foreign talent from Australia, the Ukraine and Belarus. The Cowboys are currently on a nine-match winning streak including shutouts of Nebraska (7-0) on April 1 and Arkansas (7-0) on April 4. OSU’s only setback of the season was a first-round loss against seventh-ranked Illinois at the 2007 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 16. Junior Ivan Puchkarov and freshman Oleksandr Nedovyesov are currently ranked No. 26 and No. 32 respectively in the national rankings. Nedovyesov and Daniel Byrnes are ranked No. 45 in doubles competition.
“Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have upgraded their programs this year,” Denton said. “OSU added two quality players to their roster with one of their players ranked as high as No. 10 nationally. They have a lot of strength at the top of their lineup and have been very successful this season. As for OU, head coach Paul Lockwood has put together one of his best teams in Norman. They have been playing very well this season against good teams with good wins.”
Series Notes…A&M holds a commanding lead in the all-time series against Oklahoma, 19-1. The Sooners won their only dual match versus the Aggies in 1997. A&M leads 14-6 in the all-time series versus OSU, but has lost the last three consecutive meetings between the two schools including last year’s first-round loss (4-2) to the Cowboys at the Big 12 Championship.
Senior Day On The Horizon…Fans are encouraged to join the Aggies for Senior Day festivities to be held prior to the final men’s tennis home match against Nebraska on Friday, April 20 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. Seniors Brett Joelson (Beaverton, Ore.), John Nallon (Garland, Texas) and Bryan Wooten (Houston, Texas) will be honored prior to first serve against the Cornhuskers at 6 p.m.
Double Trouble…In Big 12 play, Wooten and freshman Luka Ocvirk (Ljubljana, Slovenia) are an undefeated 2-0 at No. 3 doubles and are tops among league leaders by position. Wooten boasts a team-leading 22-9 overall doubles record this season, while Ocvirk is 8-3. “Bryan (Wooten) is a very good doubles player and understands the game,” Denton said. “Doubles is a different game, more so than singles. I am very pleased with his contributions to our team. He has helped Luka along and they have been successful in doubles.”