COLLEGE STATION -- The No. 49-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team battles No. 22-ranked Tulsa on Wednesday, March 21 after enduring a four-match stretch in six days over the spring break holiday last week. First serve between the Aggies and Golden Hurricane is set for 6 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
Tulsa (12-4) is the latest nationally-ranked foe to travel to College Station in the last 10 days with No. 16 Duke, No. 22 Division II Abilene Christian and No. 13 LSU testing the Aggies at home. In fact, A&M’s last nine opponents of the season are all ranked among the top 75 teams in the country. They have posted a 10-5 overall record with an 8-2 mark at home.
Individually, two A&M players are ranked nationally in the latest ITA/FILA Collegiate Tennis Rankings released Tuesday. Sophomore Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) makes his national debut at No. 104, while junior All-American Jerry Makowski (Bradenton, Fla.) is ranked No. 114 in singles. Pollock was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season and has compiled a 15-8 record at No. 2. Makowski, ranked No. 9 in the fall preseason rankings, picked up his third win over a nationally-ranked opponent with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory against No. 21-ranked Ken Skupski of LSU on March 17.
“Conor has really worked hard on his game,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “He’s been a real warrior and it is just a matter of time for both Conor and Jerry to move up in the rankings. It is nice to have the recognition, but I know both of their interest lies in what is best for the team and what we are doing as a team. We are headed in the right direction.”
Makowski will face third-ranked Arnau Brugues of Tulsa at the top spot for the Aggies in the singles lineup. Brugues has compiled a 21-5 singles record this season with 17 of those 21 victories coming against ranked opponents. He is one of three top players on the Golden Hurricane roster to hail from Spain including brothers, Federico and Ricardo Soriano.
“I expect a very close match,” Denton said. “Tulsa reached the semifinals of the Blue Gray Classic last week losing to seventh-ranked Notre Dame. They have had some good wins this year and are always a tough team. Their three Spaniards at the top, play well on the hard courts, because of their clay background. We are going to have to play well to beat them, because they have a lot of variation on their team. They have a good mix of different styles of play which makes them very hard to play against.”
Tulsa is one of three non-conference opponents remaining on the A&M schedule, prior to Big 12 Conference play which begins on March 30 against Texas Tech. The Aggies lead 12-1 in the all-time series with the Golden Hurricane. They have won the last six-straight meetings between the two schools including last year’s 4-3 victory on Tulsa’s home court on Feb. 18, 2006.
“They are going to be well prepared for us,” Denton said. “They beat Brown, Virginia Commonwealth and lost to Notre Dame in semifinals of the Blue Gray Classic. We have had close results against top teams and our guys are starting to get more wins in matches. We just need to win a few of these matches to jump back in the top of the rankings.”
We’ve Got Something In Common…Denton says that Tulsa head coach Vince Westbrook has done a lot to promote college tennis over the years and the Golden Hurricane generally have vibrant programs year-in and year-out. It’s no wonder that Tulsa and Texas A&M will host back-to-back NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Combined Championships in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Denton credits the university and local community’s support of college tennis in both the Tulsa and College Station areas. “When you have an opportunity to host NCAAs, you usually have good teams with players who are excited about the chance to play at home,” he said.
Double Dose…Senior Bryan Wooten (Houston, Texas) and junior Mike Beatty (Cincinnati, Ohio) are currently ranked No. 41 nationally in doubles and own a team-leading 10-1 record. The have also combined for a 6-1 mark in dual match play. Meanwhile, Tulsa’s Diego Camacho and Ross Cunningham are ranked No. 21 in doubles. Camacho was recently named Conference USA Player of the Week for his play at the Blue Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala.