Wednesday, April 21, 2004
NASHVILLE - The Alabama men’s tennis squad (10-13, 2-9 SEC) practiced indoors at Vanderbilt Wednesday in preparation for its opening round Southeastern Conference Tournament match versus No. 13 LSU (16-5, 7-4 SEC) in Nashville.
The Tide and Bengal Tigers face off in the tournament’s opening match at 8 a.m. Thursday at Vanderbilt’s Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Tennis Center. The match will be played outdoors, weather permitting, but the forecast for the Nashville area is calling for a high-percentage chance of rain.
“I think we had a pretty good practice considering we might be playing indoors tomorrow,” Alabama assistant coach Mario Rincon said. “We got adjusted to the courts and I think we will be ready rain or shine. The guys know this is an important match for us and they’re approaching it that way.”
Alabama is currently ranked 43rd in the nation, and a win over LSU would likely assure the Tide a spot in the upcoming 64-team NCAA tournament.
“We certainly feel like we have a good opportunity with LSU,” Alabama head coach Billy Pate said. “We had a tough match with them earlier in the year but we are anxious to play them again. If we can collectively play well, all at once, we can be a very dangerous team.”
Alabama senior Stephen Mitchell received second-team conference honors Wednesday night at the pre-tournament banquet. Mitchell, the Tide’s No. 1 singles player, is currently ranked 42nd in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
In other awards announced at the banquet, Ole Miss’s Billy Chadwick was named Coach of the Year, and Catalin Gard of Ole Miss was named SEC Player of the Year. Georgia’s John Isner was named Freshman of the Year, while Hamid Mirzadeh (Florida) and Bryan Fisher (LSU) were named co-scholar-athletes of the year for men’s tennis.