April 18, 2012
Cary, N.C. – Georgia Tech has drawn the eighth seed in this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and will face 9th-seed Maryland when the Yellow Jackets open play at the Cary (N.C.) Tennis Center at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The Yellow Jackets, ranked 63rd in the nation with a 9-12 overall record, finished the regular season tied with the 59th-ranked Terrapins (7-14, 4-7) for eighth place. Tech defeated Maryland, 4-3, on March 25 in Atlanta. The winner of the Tech-Maryland match will advance to face top-seeded Virginia at 9 a.m. Friday.
Also on Tech’s side of the bracket are fifth-seeded Florida State (16-8, 7-5) and 12th-seeded Miami (8-12, 1-10), who play at 12 noon Thursday. The winner of that match faces the No. 4 seed Virginia Tech (11-10, 7-4) at noon Friday. Semifinals matches are set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, with the championship match scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
Tech has never won an ACC title in men’s tennis, but the Yellow Jackets have reached the finals of the ACC Championship, which has been conducted in its current format since 1986, four times (1988, 1994, 1999 and 2002).
Tech began the spring ranked No. 15, anchored by a pair of All-American players in senior Kevin King and Juan Spir, but struggled early against a spate of top 20 opponents and lost its first two ACC matches, falling out of the ITA rankings altogether for two weeks in late March.
Three straight wins against Miami, Boston College and Maryland elevated the Yellow Jackets back to No. 62, and Tech was No. 60 last week before closing the regular-season with a pair of losses at NC State and Clemson. The Jackets have not beaten a team ranked higher than No. 51 (Virginia Tech) this spring.
Tech’s other three ACC victories this spring all occurred at home against Miami (7-0), Boston College (7-0) and Virginia Tech (5-2).
Among Tech’s losses have been four 4-3 contests decided on the last match in progress, including No. 15 Illinois and Clemson at home, and a pair of road defeats at No. 24 North Carolina and No. 42 NC State. The Jackets also lost 4-3 at Wake Forest on the final weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of close matches the entire season,” Thorne said. “We’re probably about 10 points shy of being seeded fourth in the ACC. We’ve got to find those 10 points.
“You can take [losing close matches] two ways. It can be frustrating and you can feel sorry for yourself or you can feel like you’re building. We like to build on every match, win or lose. I think the guys have done that. This is a fun time of the season. I think they’ll embrace it.”
King, ranked 28th nationally, has played No. 1 all year in singles, forging a 13-6 spring record and a 5-4 ACC mark, but the senior from Peachtree City, Ga., has missed two of the last three matches with a sore shoulder and back spasms and has lost his last four dual matches. He enters the ACC Tournament with a 79-40 career singles record.
Tech enters the ACC Championship having lost five of its last six matches, and King has either lost or not been able to play in any of those six.
With the exception of the spring’s first match and the two matches in which King was injured, Spir has played No. 2 for the Yellow Jackets and compiled a 13-6 dual match record, 6-5 in ACC play. The junior from Medellin, Colombia, ranked 60th, is 1-1 at the top spot, including a straight-set win over Virginia’s Jarmere Jenkins, ranked No. 3 at the time.
Tech’s only other senior, Dusan Miljevic, began the spring at No. 4 but switched with junior transfer Juan Melian, who had been playing No. 3, at mid-season. The change has been beneficial for both, Miljevic going 4-3 at the No. 3 position after beginning with just 3 wins in his first 10 matches, and Melian winning 5 of 7 at the fourth spot. Both played up a spot in the matches that King missed and each went 1-1.
Head coach Kenny Thorne has mixed and matched a trio of freshmen in the bottom two positions, settling on Sebastian Lopez at No. 5 and Vikram Hundal at No. 6 over the last five matches. Lopez has gone 8-7 this spring, 5-6 in ACC play, while Hundal is 5-6 overall, 3-2 in conference matches.
The third freshman, Eduardo Segura, began the spring at No. 6 and went 3-2, then 4-7 at No. 5 when Lopez became eligible in early February. He and Colin Edwards are alternates in singles for the Jackets.
Head coach Kenny Thorne experimented with doubles teams in the fall, hoping to come up with competitive pairings at No. 2 and 3. the duo of King and Spir remain the anchor at No. 1, posting a 16-2 record this spring and an 8-1 mark in conference play.
Thorne has shifted pairings in the other two positions a couple of times in the spring, settling on freshmen Hundal and Lopez at the No. 2 position (3-7 record) and Miljevic and freshman Eduardo Segura at No. 3 (9-8).
Melian was the odd man out of the shuffle, having gone 0-3 with Spir and 4-5 with Hundal.
Tech has won the doubles point six times in conference play (11 times overall this spring), but has won the match just three times when doing so.
This Weekend’s Opponents
Maryland’s four ACC victories came against Boston College (6-1), Miami (4-3), NC State (4-3) and North Carolina (5-2). Tech got by the Terrapins, 4-3, at home on March 25 behind victories from King (1), Miljevic (3), Melian (4) and Lopez (6) after being swept in all three doubles matches. Maryland is currently ranked 59th.
Virginia, 21-1 and ranked No. 2 nationally, has gone through the conference schedule undefeated and challenged only by No. 6 Duke, which fell 4-3 in Durham on March 23. The Cavaliers had little trouble with Tech in a 6-1 victory in Atlanta on April 7. Spir captured Tech’s only point with a straight-set win over 3rd-ranked Jarmere Jenkins.