May 12, 2011
ATLANTA – Playing post-season matches at home for the first time since 1997, Georgia Tech takes on Middle Tennessee State at 1 p.m. Friday in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship at the Bill Moore Tennis Center.
Tech (19-5) is the top seed in the Atlanta Regional and the overall No. 15 seed in the NCAA Championship, facing a Blue Raider team (13-12) that has won the Sun Belt Conference championship three years running. Florida State and Mississippi State will face off at 10 a.m. Friday in the other first round match. The winners will meet at 3 p.m. Saturday, with the survivor of that match advancing to the round of 16 at Stanford, Calif.
Tech is one of 16 regional sites being conducted around the country, and each winner will play in the NCAA Championship May 19-24 on the campus of Stanford University. Tickets for the Atlanta Regional are $5 for adults and $3 for students each day, and admission is good for all matches that day, including the NCAA women’s regional matches, which will take place Saturday (9 a.m. and 12 noon) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
Public parking is available in Peters Parking Deck at 4th and Fowler Streets, the Klaus Deck across Fowler Street from Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium, and the North Deck on Atlantic Street, three blocks West of the tennis center off 10th Street. Because Tech also is hosting the Atlantic Coast Conference softball tournament all three days, parking along Fowler Street near the tennis center and in areas around Alexander Memorial Coliseum is restricted to teams and game staff.
“We’re excited to accomplish one of our goals this year in hosting. We have played well at home so we look forward to getting a good crowd out to support us,” said Tech coach Kenny Thorne, whose team is 10-1 at home this spring. “It will be a great weekend of tennis, having our women hosting again as well. This will be some of the best college tennis in the nation so we hope to have Yellow Jacket fans from all around out to watch.”
Thorne, in his 13th season at his alma mater, has guided the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets to a 19-5 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. The Tech men have hosted preliminary rounds once before, in 1997.
“We have three quality men’s teams coming to our campus,” Thorne said. “Middle Tennessee State played a good match in beating South Alabama to win their conference and they have our full attention. The guys have done a great job of practicing and conditioning as well. The guys have trained hard all year. They will be ready.”
Tech has steadily climbed from its pre-spring ranking of No. 23 to its high of No. 15 last week. The Yellow Jackets’ eight ACC wins are a school record. If the Yellow Jackets come out of the ACC Championship with a ranking in the nation’s top 16, it will stand a good chance of hosting an NCAA regional in May.
The Yellow Jackets are one of 34 schools whose men’s and women’s teams are participating in the NCAA Championship, and one of nine (Baylor, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia) who are hosting NCAA regionals for both men and women.
Tech Men in the NCAA Championship
Georgia Tech is competing in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship for the 14th time, and for the 10th time in 13 seasons under head coach Kenny Thorne. Tech is hosting an NCAA regional, or first- and second-round event, for just the second time.
Tech is 7-13 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches, 4-9 in nine previous appearances under Thorne. The Yellow Jackets defeated Binghamton, 4-1, in last year’s first round before falling to host Kentucky, 4-1.
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, 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 NCAA Championship.
The Yellow Jackets last hosted an NCAA regional in 1997, losing their first-round match to Duke, 4-3.
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 13 of his last 14 matches, 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 31-7 overall singles record this year, 20-3 in dual matches, and is 10-6 against ranked foes. Tech’s all-time leader in singles victories with 116, Gomez will compete in the NCAA Singles Championship May 25-30 at Stanford.
Kevin King has won 12 of his last 15 matches and is 17-4 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 7-1 at his normal No. 3 position and also went 7-1 at No. 4.
Spir, a sophomore from Medellin, Colombia, who plays No. 2 for the Jackets, is 4-5 in ACC play. He is 11-7 in the spring, 22-11 overall. Senior Eliot Potvin also is 13-9 this spring for the Yellow Jackets, including a 6-2 mark at No. 4 singles and a 7-4 mark in ACC matches.
Spir and King are 13-6 in doubles matches this spring, having defeated six ranked tandems out of 28 total victories this year. They have been selected to compete in the NCAA Doubles Championship, which will take place the same time and place as the singles championship. 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 15-7 playing mostly at No. 2.
This Weekend’s Opponents
Middle Tennessee State won its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference title to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Championship. The Blue Raiders come to Atlanta with a 13-12 overall record and are in the championship for the 10th time. The Jackets are 5-4 all-time against MTSU.
Mississippi State, ranked 21st in the nation, earned an at-large bid by winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division with an 8-3 record and posting a 13-8 overall mark. Florida State, ranked 47th in the nation, has an at-large bid to the championship after compiling a 9-15 overall record and a 4-7 mark in the ACC, finishing in eighth place.
The Bulldogs have four players ranked among the nation’s top 100 individuals in singles, and one doubles team ranked 37th. FSU has a player ranked No. 25 and one ranked No. 105 in singles.
Tech faced both Mississippi State and Florida State at home earlier this season, defeating the Bulldogs, 4-0, on Feb. 5, and the Seminoles, 6-1, on March 6. The Jackets are 6-5 all-time against Mississippi State, 29-29 against Florida State.
The 16 survivors of the NCAA first- and second-round matches at the various campus sites will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 19-24 in Stanford, Calif. The NCAA singles and doubles championships will take place May 25-30 at Stanford.