Wednesday, April 20, 2005
The Alabama men’s tennis team will roll into Athens, Ga. for the 2005 SEC Tournament Thursday riding a three-match winning streak and looking to strengthen its argument for an NCAA tournament berth as it plays fifth seeded Tennessee at 12:00 p.m. est.
Alabama (10-14, 1-10 SEC) ended its regular season last week with three big wins over in-state opponents including an upset win on the road last Saturday against rival Auburn.
“I feel like we’re starting to play like we’re capable of,” Alabama head coach Billy Pate said, “and certainly feel as though we’ve saved our best tennis for the stretch run. Now it’s up to us to utilize the momentum that we have and play well at the SEC Tournament.”
Alabama and Tennessee (11-7, 6-5 SEC) hooked up back on March 6 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Volunteers won that encounter 6-1, however the Crimson Tide missed several opportunities to swing the match in its favor, losing three three-set singles matches that turned out to be the difference between a 6-1 loss and 4-3 win. Thursday the Tide will look to reverse the March 6 decision.
“That was one of those matches during the regular season that we felt we had a chance to win,” Pate said. “We know we can be competitive with them but we have to enter with a mindset that we know we can win. Tennessee is an outstanding team and we have to play the way we know we’re capable of.”
Alabama will look to Second Team All-SEC members Joseph Jung and Luigi D’Agord Thursday for winning performances. Jung (22-12) has won eight in a row entering the tournament and might possibly be the hottest player in the conference. He’s coming off a big win over 2004 NCAA semifinalist, Auburn’s Gabor Zoltan Pelva. Jung moved up ten spots to No. 73 in this week’s ITA rankings after the win. D’Agord leads the team in victories with 25 and has won four in a row himself, including a win over First Team All-SEC member Ken Skupski.
The last time Alabama played Tennessee in the SEC Tournament was in the 2001 semifinals. Tennessee won that meeting 4-2. Alabama is 1-2 under Billy Pate in the SEC Tournament. In 2003 Pate led the Tide to a 4-1 win over Mississippi State before guiding his team to the Sweet 16.