COLLEGE STATION -- Postseason play has become an annual occurrence for the No. 35-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team as the Aggies make their 14th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance this weekend in Waco, Texas.
A&M (14-11) will face Conference USA runner-up Rice (15-11) in first-round action on Friday, May 11 at the Baylor Tennis Center. First serve between the Aggies and Owls is set for 3 p.m. (CT). The winner will meet either host Baylor (24-3) or Mid-Continent Conference champion Oral Roberts (10-7) in the men’s regional final on Saturday, March 12 at 5 p.m. (CT).
“We are looking forward to the weekend of competition,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “Rice will be a formidable opponent and will be a great test for us. They had a solid year and it will be exciting to play a team that we have not played against this year. Everything starts over in the NCAA Tournament and we look at it as a great opportunity.”
BU and Rice are currently ranked No. 4 and No. 30 respectively in the latest ITA/FILA Collegiate Tennis Rankings. Baylor swept the Big 12 regular season and postseason championship titles this season. A&M and BU were one of six Big 12 Conference schools to earn an NCAA Championship bid along with Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Texas A&M boasts two nationally-ranked singles players in junior All-American Jerry Makowski (Bradenton, Fla.) and sophomore Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) who are ranked No. 65 and No. 68 respectively. They are joined at the NCAA Championship by freshman Luka Ocvirk (Ljubljana, Slovenia), junior Matt Bain (Georgetown, Texas), senior John Nallon (Garland, Texas), freshman Brad Williams (Cape Town, South Africa) and senior Bryan Wooten (Houston, Texas).
“We solidified some things and made sure we were doing the fundamentals well this past week,” Denton said. “We went back to the basics to get us ready and playing at our best.”
A&M holds a 27-3 advantage in the all-time series versus former Southwest Conference rival Rice. Both teams last met in 2004 as A&M defeated the then No. 11-ranked Owls, 4-3, in College Station. Meanwhile, the Aggies lead Baylor (23-12) and Oral Roberts (1-0) in the all-time series. They have never met Rice or ORU in NCAA Championship play, but are 0-1 versus the Bears with a 4-0 loss in the Round of 16 in 2005.
Last season, the 16th-seeded Aggies defeated fourth-seeded Texas-Arlington (4-0) in the first round, but later fell to second-seeded Notre Dame (4-2) in the second round held in College Station.
The winner of each first-and second-round site will advance to the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships to be held at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. The team championship will be held May 17-22.
Aggies In NCAA Championship Play…Texas A&M has made 15 all-time appearances in the NCAA Team Championships including the last 14 seasons and in 1985. The Aggies have advanced to the Round of 16 on eight occasions (1985, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005) and to the Elite Eight once in 2001. They are 21-14 all-time in postseason play and have advanced past the first round 12 times.
Deep In The Heart Of Texas…Friday’s match will mark only the eighth time A&M has played away from College Station for the NCAA First and Second Rounds. However, the Aggies have only played outside of the state of Texas in the early rounds on two occasions. A&M was sent to the campuses of Virginia Commonwealth and Boise State in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The Aggies have competed in first-and second-round action at Rice (1994), Texas (1996, 1998 and 1999) and TCU (1997).
Playing The Nation’s Best…Eight of A&M’s 11 losses of the season were against opponents ranked in the top 15. Six of the 11 matches were decided by two points or less. 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.
Everybody’s All-American…Two-time All-American Jerry Makowski was selected as an alternate to the 2007 NCAA Singles Championship in Athens, Ga. He previously earned All-America honors in 2005 and 2006. This season, Makowski has beaten six ranked opponents at the No. 1 line for the Aggies. He was ranked as high as No. 9 nationally in the preseason rankings.
Crunch Time…Final exams were at the top of the priority list for the Aggies this week. Practices were short and light this week due to studying for finals, Denton said. Three A&M players are currently enrolled in the Mays Business School and hold a 3.2 grade-point average or better. The men’s tennis and women’s golf teams boasted the highest team GPA among all A&M varsity sports this past season.
Watch It Live…Each NCAA 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 www.baylorbears.com.