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Men’s Tennis Set for SEC Home Openers Against Georgia and Tennessee
Commodores search for first conference win of season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While every Southeastern Conference dual match can be considered important, this weekend’s two matches might take precedent over any others for the Vanderbilt men’s tennis team. With the 24th-ranked Commodores standing at 7-1 overall and 0-1 in the SEC, they will look for wins over No. 22-ranked Georgia and No. 26-ranked Tennessee.

Vanderbilt will take on Georgia (3-5, 0-0 SEC) at 2 p.m. Friday and Tennessee (6-2, 0-0 SEC) at 12 p.m. Sunday. Both matches will be played at the Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Center and admission will be free. The first 50 people to attend Friday’s match with the Bulldogs will receive a Vanderbilt tennis towel.

With the Commodores already standing at 0-1 in the conference, after losing to Arkansas three weeks ago, this weekend’s matches are important if they want to stay in the hunt for a regular-season championship. These matches also have a lot of relevance because with the potential for two wins, the Commodores can finally get over the hump of winning important SEC matches.

“I was very disappointed with the way we played against Arkansas," Vanderbilt head coach Ken Flach said. " We knew it was a match we should have won. We had several guys go out and play not to lose. Lately, we have gone out and played more aggressively, which is what I want my players to do. To me, winning and losing is not as important as going out and competing as hard as you can in each match.”

The Commodores enter Friday’s match with Georgia looking to extend their winning streak to four. While the Bulldogs have owned the Commodores in recent years, Vanderbilt seems poised and ready to get over the hump against the traditional collegiate national power. Vanderbilt almost broke through last year in Athens, Ga., as it fell in dramatic fashion, 4-3.

The Volunteers have also been a thorn in the side of the Commodores, but have dealt with a thin line-up this season. The Volunteers ended a two-match losing streak last Friday against in-state foe Austin Peay. Prior to its win, Tennessee dropped consecutive matches to No. 37-ranked Louisville and No. 8-ranked Duke. It was Tennessee’s first back-to-back dual match losing streak since 1999.

The Commodores early season success has stemmed from solid play in both singles and doubles. Vanderbilt has claimed the critical doubles point in all eight of its dual matches. Of the 24 doubles matches they have played, the Commodores have been victorious in 22 of them. In singles, the junior class has been on a role. Bobby Reynolds, who moved up to No. 5 in the ITA national rankings, is currently riding a 15-match winning streak into this weekend. He is 25-5 on the year, which includes a 6-0 mark in dual matches.

Chad Harris, who only dropped one spot in the rankings to No. 15, picked up his 20th singles win of the year last weekend against Indiana’s Jakub Praibis. He has won four straight dual matches to push his record to 5-1. Zach Dailey, Lewie Smith and sophomore Scott Brown have all posted 6-1 dual-match records at the No. 4 and 6 positions, respectively.

Scouting the Bulldogs

When you talk about tradition in college tennis, one of the first teams you think of Georgia. The Bulldogs have won four NCAA national championships and 22 SEC titles. Under the tutelage of head coach Manuel Diaz for the 15 seasons, the Bulldogs have compiled a 328-69 dual-match record.

The Bulldogs entered the 2002-03 season with several questions, which are due mostly in part to loss of three players to the professional tour. The biggest loss was two-time defending NCAA singles champion Matias Boeker. With the loss of Boeker, Brandon Wagner and Lesley Joseph, who all would have been seniors this season, Diaz has had to make several adjustments to his line-up.

Even with the early-season struggles the Bulldogs have dealt with, they are still a difficult team to defeat anytime they step on the court. All eight of Georgia’s opponents are nationally ranked, which included No. 2 Illinois and No. 3 Baylor. Leading the way is All-American junior Bo Hodge. He has won 73 singles matches over his three seasons with the Bulldogs, and has been solid in dual-match play with a 6-1 record. In last year’s match against the Commodores, Hodge fell to then Vanderbilt sophomore Zach Dailey in straight sets at the No. 4 position, 7-6, 6-4.

“They (Georgia) lost some key players form last year’s team," Flach said. "Their program is in the rebuilding stage right now. This will be a good opportunity for us to. We have played them close in the past, so hopefully this is the year we can get over the hump and get a win against a strong program.”

Scouting the Volunteers

Tennessee will bring in a rather young but proven team to Nashville this weekend. The Volunteers’ active roster consists of only senior, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen.

Junior Simon Rea has been the leader of Tennessee’s squad this year. Rea, who will meet up with Reynolds on Sunday, is 17-4 this year and 7-1 in dual matches. Rea and Reynolds squared off at the Omni Hotels Region III Championship in October, where Reynolds squeaked out a win in three tight sets, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.

In dual-match singles competition, the Volunteers have a stellar 36-8 record. Freshman Vincent Perna and sophomore Mark Dietrich area combined 13-2 in dual matches. Tennessee’s top six players have all won at least 10 singles matches. Along with Rea’s 17 wins, Dietrich and freshman Rawl Martin have won 13 matches apiece.

“It’s always fun playing Tennessee for the mere fact they are our in-state rivals," Flach said. "We always have competitive matches, which are usually very intense and heated. We are looking forward to a good weekend against two worthy opponents.”

 


 








 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)