MONTGOMERY, Ala.- The 21st ranked Alabama men’s tennis team headed to Montgomery today to get in a practice before beginning play at the prestigious Blue Gray Tennis Classic. The team kicks off the tournament with Penn State tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center.
“Every year we look forward to the Blue Gray Championships,” said Alabama head coach Billy Pate. “It’s a prestigious event, rich with tradition but getting better each year. It’s an extremely tough field of 16 nationally competitive teams and we’ll have to be at our best.”
The 2008 field features 16 of the top teams in the country. Out of the competition, eighth ranked Tulsa leads the field, followed by VCU at No. 19 and Alabama at No. 21 in the national rankings. This year 13 of the 16 teams head into the tournament nationally ranked.
“We have a lot of friends in the Montgomery community who really come out and support us. Our guys really respond to the unsurpassed hospitality the Blue Gray offers.”
Alabama returns to the Blue Gray this year after recording a 3-1 record and a second place finish in last year’s tournament. The Tide fell to Notre Dame in the final. The finish is the best of any Tide team since 1989 when the Tide defeated Miami to capture the title.
The Crimson Tide heads into the tournament 11-4 overall and 3-1 in conference play after splitting matches last weekend with Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Alabama will look to its doubles play this weekend. The Tide has earned the doubles point in 10 matches this season. The top tandem of Daniel Buikema and Mat Thibaudeau, ranked 45th nationally, are 20-8 overall and 13-1 from No. 1.
Alabama is 2-0 all-time against the Nittany Lions dating back to 1976. Penn State heads into the match 4-5 overall and is coming off a win over Northwestern in conference play.
“Penn State is very good and I expect a tough battle right out of the gates,” said Pate.
For information about the Blue Gray Classic visit the tournament website at www.bluegraytennis.com. Live statistics and updated results will be available during and following each match.