Jan. 19, 2012
ATLANTA – Rebuilt and ready to pursue a third-straight berth in the NCAA Championship, Georgia Tech begins the 2012 spring season Friday with a 2:30 p.m. match against Old Dominion at the Bill Moore Tennis Center. The Yellow Jackets then go on the road to play 13th-ranked Tennessee Sunday afternoon.
Tech lost five seniors, including a three-time All-American in Guillermo Gomez, from a 2011 squad that went 21-6 and advanced to the NCAA Championship round of 16. But head coach Kenny Thorne’s team still boasts the nation’s No. 2-ranked doubles team in senior Kevin King and junior Juan Spir, and King is ranked 9th in the nation in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings.
King and Spir will play at the top of the Tech order in singles, while head coach Kenny Thorne will have some veteran help from senior Dusan Miljevic and junior Juan Melian Puigventos in the middle, and choose from a group of newcomers at the bottom of the lineup.
“We’re looking forward to this season getting started at home,” said Thorne, who is beginning his 14th spring at Tech. “Our schedule is very strong which is what is expected when you play for Georgia Tech. I respect every team out there and know that each match will be a battle.
“We have worked very hard in the gym with our new strength coach Mike Bewley. He has done an incredible job with our five new players this year as well as our returning three. The guys have worked hard on court and we just need to get match tested. We don’t have to wait very long to see exactly where we are as a team and I like that.”
Admission is free to Friday’s match, which kicks off a big alumni weekend for Tech tennis. The women will host Georgia Saturday at 1 p.m. to open their season, and former Tech players on both teams will be honored during the match. Parking is available along Fowler and 8th Streets.
King, a senior from Peachtree City, Ga., finished the fall with a 14-3 singles record and won the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional in Athens, Ga. The left-hander also reached the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Indoors and the round of 16 at the Southern Intercollegiate Championship. He is 49-17 in his career.
Spir, a junior from Medellin, Colombia, begin the fall ranked 34th nationally in singles, but his deepest advance in a tournament was the round of 16 at the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional. He finished the fall with a 3-4 mark, and is 40-28 for his career.
King and Spir finished last spring 9th nationally in doubles after posting a 16-6 dual match record as Tech’s top doubles team (34-11 overall).
Miljevic, a senior from Novi Sad, Serbia, has a 35-18 career singles mark, while Melian Puigventos went 22-1 last spring and won Southern Conference Player of the year honors at Georgia Southern.
Freshmen Eduardo Segura Mandarino (Madrid, Spain), Vikram Hundal (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Colin Edwards (Valrico, Fla.) are competing for the remaining singles positions. Segura saw the most action in the fall, going 6-7 in singles, while the others missed a lot of time with injuries.
OLD DOMINION/TENNESSEE UPDATE
Old Dominion brings a familiar face with it, new head coach Aljosa Piric, who was Kenny Thorne’s assistant coach the last three years, helping the Yellow Jackets to two NCAA Championship appearances. The Yellow Jackets and the Monarchs have not met since 1988, when Thorne was a Tech senior, and Tech owns a 3-2 lead in the series.
Tennessee, ranked 13th in the pre-season ITA rankings, finished the 2010-11 season No. 4 after reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. The Volunteers’ top players are Peter Nagovnak (No. 117), Hunter Reese (119) and Mikelis Libietis (125). Sunday’s match will be the first meeting between the two teams since 1997, and the Vols have a 29-21 lead in the series.
“ODU has some strong players and I know Aljosa will have ODU ready to play,” said Thorne. “I have been in touch with Aljosa, and he is doing a great job of building a top program there. It will be a very good battle on Friday. We have to turn around and travel to University of Tennessee to play on Sunday. Their team has consistently been in the top 5 in the nation and is always tough.”
Tech hosts the ITA National Kick-off Weekend at the Bill Moore Tennis Center on Jan. 29-30, which includes 17th-ranked Illinois, No. 20 North Carolina and No. 21 Auburn, at the Bill Moore Tennis Center.