Men's Tennis To Contend For Big 12 Championship In Kansas City

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COLLEGE STATION -- The No. 36-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team will vie for its fourth postseason championship title at the 2007 Big 12 Conference Championship on April 27-29 at the Plaza Tennis Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The seventh-seeded Aggies (14-10, 1-5) will face second-seeded Oklahoma State (16-3, 4-2) in quarterfinal action on Friday, April 27 at 9 a.m. The winner will move on to the first of two semifinal matches on Saturday, April 28 at 11 a.m., while the championship match is scheduled for Sunday, April 29 at 1 p.m. This marks the fourth time the Big 12 Championship has been held in Kansas City. The No. 3 through No. 6 seeds are still to be determined as Oklahoma (17-7, 1-4) and Texas Tech (13-7, 2-3) will meet in a makeup match on Thursday.

A&M owns three Big 12 Championship trophies from the 1998, 2000 and 2001 tournaments which is the second-most behind league regular season champion Baylor (22-3, 6-0). Of the seven conference schools which sponsor men’s tennis as a varsity sport, A&M and BU have captured all but one title since 2000. The Aggies have played for the championship title on five different occasions including in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. Rival Texas (16-7, 4-2) enters the tournament field as reigning Big 12 champions after defeating BU (4-1) in last year’s championship title tilt in Waco, Texas.

A&M’s quest for a fourth postseason championship title will not come easy. Finishing seventh for the first time since the league’s formation in 1997, the Aggies will have their work cut out for them. A&M leads 14-7 in the all-time series versus OSU since 1980, but has lost the last four-straight meetings between the two schools including a close 4-3 loss on April 15 in Stillwater, Okla. This will be the second consecutive year in which the Aggies and Cowboys will meet in quarterfinal action. Last year’s matchup resulted in a 4-2 first-round loss to fourth-seeded OSU. Prior to that meeting, the two schools also faced each other in the semifinals in 2001 and 2005. The Cowboys hold a 2-1 advantage in Big 12 postseason play versus A&M.

“We will play hard and play smart in Kansas City,” said first-year Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton who is making his coaching debut at the Big 12 Championship. “The most important thing for us is to go into the tournament focused and playing at the level we are capable of playing. We are going to let the winning and losing take care of itself. We can live with whatever the result is, because our guys are still in it and working hard. We are due to play a good match in light of the last four or five matches, where we lost several close points and close matches. We have no pressure on us and we can just relax and play.”

The Aggies boast two nationally-ranked singles players in junior All-American Jerry Makowski (Bradenton, Fla.) and sophomore Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) who are ranked No. 68 and No. 69 respectively. Senior Bryan Wooten (Houston, Texas) and Mike Beatty (Cincinnati, Ohio) are currently ranked No. 54 in doubles. Pollock is 22-10 overall in singles, while Wooten is a team-leading 25-9 overall in doubles. Makowski has beaten six ranked opponents this season at the No. 1 line for the Aggies. Makowski, Pollock and Wooten are joined at the Big 12 Championship by senior Brett Joelson (Beaverton, Ore.), senior John Nallon (Garland, Texas), junior Matt Bain (Georgetown, Texas), freshman Luka Ocvirk (Ljubljana, Slovenia) and freshman Brad Williams (Cape Town, South Africa).

As a team, five of A&M’s 10 losses of the season were decided by two points or less including eight against opponents ranked in the top 15. A&M fell to four top 10 teams on the road at Illinois, UCLA, USC and Baylor as well as home losses against perennial tennis powerhouses in Duke and LSU. The Aggies will look to have a good showing in postseason tournament play to put them in contention for a 14th consecutive NCAA Team Championship berth.

Individual Regular Season Champions…With a makeup match still to be played between Oklahoma and Texas Tech on Thursday, A&M is still in contention for three individual Big 12 Conference titles. Conor Pollock has compiled a conference-leading 4-2 record at No. 2 singles, but could end up in a three-way tie for the honor with OSU’s Ivan Puchkarov (3-2) and Texas Tech’s Dimitrio Martinez (3-2). Pollock and teammate Matt Bain finished regular season play with a 3-3 record at No. 2 doubles and could share the title with doubles teams from OSU and Tech. Meanwhile, Bryan Wooten and Luka Ocvirk boast an undefeated 5-0 record at No. 3 doubles, but could tie doubles teams from OSU and OU. Position winners are determined by the most victories and a minimum of four matches played by position. Records at higher positions count towards records in which student-athletes have played a minimum of four matches. Student-athletes who tie or win positional titles outright will each receive medals at the conference championship.

What’s On Tap…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. Additional live results can be found at http://kuathletics.cstv.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/032707aaq.html. The tournament champion receives the league’s automatic bid to the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship.

Looking Ahead…The 64-team field for the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship will be announced on Tuesday, May 1 on ESPNEWS. The men’s announcement is slated to begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. ESPNEWS is located on DirecTV channel 207/DishNetwork Channel 142. In addition, the ESPNEWS audio signal is available on the ESPNEWS channel on XM Radio and SIRIUS Radio. First-and second-round competition will be played on May 11-12 at 16 campus sites (four teams per site). Participants in the 64-player singles championship and 32-team doubles championship will be posted on Wednesday, May 2 before 5 p.m. Singles and doubles participants will join the final 16 teams at the national championship to be held at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia on May 17-28 in Athens, Ga.

Aggies At The Big 12 Championship…Texas A&M is 15-7 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, the Aggies lost to OSU in the quarterfinals (2-4).

Big 12 Championship Schedule Of Events

Friday, April 27

No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Texas A&M at 9 a.m.

No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 seed at noon

No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed at 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 28

No. 2/7 winner vs. No. 3/6 winner at 11 a.m.

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 4/5 winner at 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 29

Championship Match at 1 p.m.