Feb. 28, 2013
THE FLATS – Moving closer to the beginning of Atlantic Coast Conference competition, Georgia Tech is home this weekend for a trio of matches against ranked foes, beginning with Georgia State at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex.
On Sunday, Tennessee visits Tech at 12 noon, followed by Kennesaw State at 6 p.m. It is a busy weekend for Yellow Jackets’ tennis at the Byers Complex, which also is the setting for a pair of matches for the Tech women against North Texas on Friday afternoon (4 p.m.) and Miami of Ohio on Sunday (8:30 a.m.). North Texas and Miami will play each other Saturday morning.
The Yellow Jackets (4-5, including a 4-1 mark at home) are currently No. 67 in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, while the Panthers (7-5) are No. 61. GSU is coming off a pair of home losses on Saturday, while Tech dropped a 6-1 decision on the road to No. 21 Auburn.
Tennessee, 12-2 overall and ranked 8th in the nation this week, visits No. 9 Georgia Friday in its Southeastern Conference opener before coming to Atlanta. The Vols are the fourth SEC team on Tech’s schedule this spring. Kennesaw State is 2-4 with matches against Austin Peay and Georgia State scheduled Friday and Saturday. The KSU match was recently added to the schedule.
“Georgia State has a very good team. Tennessee has played very well this year. We’ve played them and we know their players. They’re improved a lot,” said Tech head coach Kenny Thorne. “For us, every match from here on out is an opportunity to get better. We’ve played well at home, and I expect that to continue this weekend and keep our momentum going. Right now, we need to focus on what we need to do in our own play. There are some great matchups in every match this weekend.”
Tech has faced four teams ranked in the 60s this season, dropping a close match to Fresno State, 4-3, and losing to San Diego State, 4-0, in Los Angeles during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, then easily handling then-No. 61 North Florida at home a week ago by a 6-1 score. The Jackets’ only home loss has been to Georgia, ranked No. 6 at the time, by a 5-2 score.
Head coach Kenny Thorne’s team has relied heavily on its doubles teams, which have produced points in six of Tech’s nine matches, and Thorne is looking for his two seniors at the top of the singles lineup to improve upon their early season performances.
Juan Spir and Vikram Hundal, ranked No. 3 in the nation, are 7-1 this spring and knocked off the nation’s top-ranked duo at Auburn last weekend. They are followed by Juan Melian and Nathan Rakitt, who are 5-2 at No. 2. Thorne has utilized four different pairs at No. 3, but Colin Edwards and Eduardo Segura are 2-1 for the Jackets in the last three matches.
Spir, a senior from Medellin, Colombia, and Melian, a senior from Las Palmas, Spain, both have emerged from difficult beginnings to the spring. Spir, who missed time with a stomach virus early, has won three of his last four, losing only to Andreas Mies of Auburn in a tight three-set match, and defeated 16th-ranked Hernus Pieters of Georgia at No. 2. Melian, who missed time with a sprained ankle, lost to 19th-ranked Nathan Pasha of Georgia playing No. 1, but has won three straight at No. 2 since then.
Tech has gotten solid play from Hundal, a sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., who has won two of his last three matches at No. 3 and is 5-4 for the spring, and Nathan Rakitt, a freshman from Marietta, Ga., with a 5-3 mark at No. 4.