April 11, 2014
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech makes its final road trip of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, taking on another pair of highly-ranked conference teams this weekend in North Carolina and Duke.
Tech (7-11, 1-7 ACC) visits eighth-ranked North Carolina (20-3, 7-1 ACC) at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and 13th-ranked Duke (14-5, 6-1 ACC) Sunday at 1 p.m. The Tar Heels are in second place in the ACC standings behind undefeated and No. 4 Virginia, while the Blue Devils are in third place.
The Yellow Jackets enter the weekend with an ITA ranking of No. 72 despite their record, boasting a pair of ranked doubles teams – No. 43 Carlos Benito and Eduardo Segura and No. 79 Nathan Rakitt and Cole Fiegel – and the nation’s No. 112 singles player in Rakitt.
But head coach Kenny Thorne will not be playing with a full deck personnel-wise as the Jackets finish out the season. Freshman Will Showers, who has played at the bottom of Tech’s lineup in both singles and doubles, has left the team to concentrate on academic pursuits. It is the latest in a string of absences due to injuries and other issues that has reduced Tech’s roster to five healthy players. Thus, Tech will not field a third doubles team, nor a sixth singles player for the remainder of its matches.
“We’ve struggled down low in the line up anyway, this just makes it a little more obvious,” said Thorne. “But the rest of the guys are all in and practicing well. They’re getting some great experience in the process. Outside of Virginia, these are the toughest two teams in the ACC, so it will be a strong test. We’d like to go in with a full squad, but we can win some matches with the guys we have.”
Rakitt, a sophomore from Marietta, Ga., Benito (freshman, Madrid, Spain) and Segura (junior, Madrid, Spain), have taken turns playing the top three positions in the Tech lineup, combining to go 23-26 in dual matches this spring. Rakitt knocked off the nation’s 19th-ranked player (from Virginia Tech) in straight sets a week ago.
Freshman Cole Fiegel (Alachua, Fla.), despite dropping his last three matches, has been impressive this spring in the middle of the Tech order, posting an 11-4 record. Junior Colin Edwards (Valrico, Fla.) will man the fifth position.
Winning the doubles point will be key if Tech hopes to challenge the last three opponents, all of whom are ranked in the top 25 (the Jackets close out at home with No. 20 Clemson next Friday). Benito and Segura are 10-7 this spring, while Rakitt and Fiegel are 4-4 since re-pairing with each other four weeks ago.