Tennis Set for SEC Home Openers Against Georgia and Tennessee
Commodores search for first conference win of season
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
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
“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,
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
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
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.”