Tech Takes On USC in NCAA Round of 16

May 18, 2011

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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, an at-large selection to the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship for the second straight year, is the 15th overall seed and has advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994, where it will face the No. 2 seed and second-ranked Southern California (23-2) at 3 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.

The winner of that match will play either No. 7 Florida (20-8) or No. 10 Kentucky (28-8) in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The semifinal matches are scheduled for Monday, May 23, and the championship match Tuesday, May 24.

Tech (21-5), whose 21 wins are the second most in its history, advanced to the round of 16 by defeating Middle Tennessee State, 4-0, and 21st-ranked Mississippi State, 4-1, at home in NCAA first- and second-round matches last weekend.

“This is something we’ve been working for all year, and some of these guys have worked four years,” said head coach Kenny Thorne. “All the stadium runs, stadium runs, this is what it’s for. These guys are so excited. Once oyu get past the first and second rounds, it’s wide open. A team can get hot, go for it, and has a chance to do extremely well.

“USC is a great team, the two-time defending champion. We understand how good a team they are. We know them fairly well. It’ll be a tough match, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Thorne, in his 13th season at his alma mater, has guided the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets to a 21-5 overall record and an 8-3 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Tech is competing in the NCAA Championship for the 14th time, and for the 10th time in 13 seasons under Thorne.

Tech has steadily climbed from its pre-spring ranking of No. 23 to its high of No. 15 the week of May 2, and is No. 16 this week. The Yellow Jackets’ eight ACC wins are a school record.

Tech’s NCAA Championship History

Georgia Tech is competing in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship for the 14th time, and has reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1994 and for the second time in its history.

Tech is in the NCAA Championship for the 10th time in 13 seasons under head coach Kenny Thorne, and hosted an NCAA regional, or first- and second-round event, for just the second time.

Tech is 9-13 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches, 6-9 in nine previous appearances under Thorne.

Since the NCAA began using a regional format for the early rounds of the championship on campus sites, Tech has advanced to the championship site only once before this year, in 1994 at South Bend, Ind. The Yellow Jackets defeated Florida State, 4-2, VCU, 4-1, and North Carolina, 4-3, in the Region II tournament in Columbia, S.C., before being eliminated by TCU in the quarterfinals at the championship site at Notre Dame.

Twice as Nice

The Georgia Tech men’s and women’s tennis teams both hosted NCAA Tournament First and Second Round regionals for the first time and both advanced to the Round of 16 in the same season for the first time. The men’s team is making its second trip to the final 16 and the women have punched their ticket to a sixth final 16. The Yellow Jackets were one of nine teams to host both men’s and women’s first and second round matches.

Tech’s head coaches in men’s (Kenny Thorne) and women’s (Bryan Shelton) have been close friends and competitors since their days in junior tennis circles. Both enrolled at Georgia Tech and played together from 1985-88, leading the Yellow Jackets to their first NCAA Championship team berth as seniors in 1988. They rank second and third with 112 and 101 singles victories, respectively, in Tech history, and were named All-Americans as seniors. Each won an Atlantic Coast Conference singles championship, and each made the All-ACC team all four years.

Following their careers in professional tennis, Thorne became Tech’s head men’s coach in 1998, with Shelton taking the helm of the women’s team one year later.

Double Dipping

Georgia Tech is one of nine teams in the Round of 16 to have both of its men’s and women’s teams competing at Stanford. Three of the nine – Georgia Tech, Virginia and Duke – hail from the ACC. Thirty-four schools began the men’s and women’s tennis tournament with both teams participating.

Tech Update

No. 1 singles player Guillermo Gomez is ranked No. 14, and No. 2 player Juan Spir is No. 82 in the latest ITA national rankings. The Yellow Jackets’ doubles team of Kevin King and Juan Spir is ranked No. 14.

All-American Gomez has won 14 of his last 16 matches (one unfinished), and went 10-1 in ACC play, dropping his final match of the season to Virginia’s Michael Shabaz, ranked No. 8 nationally. The senior from Alicante, Spain, has a 32-7 overall singles record this year, 21-3 in dual matches, and is 11-6 against ranked foes. He ranks first in Tech history with 117 singles victories.

Kevin King has won 14 of his last 17 matches and is 19-4 this spring. The junior from Peachtree City, Ga., played No. 2 in the final weekend of the regular season and in the ACC Tournament in place of the injured Juan Spir. He won both of his ACC Tournament matches (one was unfinished) and has a 2-2 mark at No. 2, but is 9-1 at his normal No. 3 position, including two wins last weekend in the NCAA regional in Atlanta.

Spir, a sophomore from Medellin, Colombia, who plays No. 2 for the Jackets, is 4-5 in ACC play. He is 11-8 in the spring, 22-12 overall. Senior Eliot Potvin is 14-9 this spring for the Yellow Jackets, including a 7-2 mark at No. 4 singles and a 7-4 mark in ACC matches.

Sophomore Magin Ortiga and senior Dean O’Brien play No. 5 and 6 for the Yellow Jackets, though each played up one position while Spir was sidelined. O’Brien went 10-1 in conference play this spring, and has won six in a row at the No. 6 position entering this weekend’s action.

Spir and King are 15-6 in dual doubles matches this spring, having defeated seven ranked tandems out of 30 total victories this year. Gomez and Dean O’Brien, who play No. 3 doubles, have the Jackets’ best spring record at 19-3, while Potvin and Ryan Smith are 17-7 playing mostly at No. 2.

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