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Spartan Tennis Readies for ITA Kickoff Weekend

Senior Denis Bogatov and the Spartans are looking forward to facing top competiiton.

Jan. 23, 2013

EAST LANSING, Mich. - No. 47 Michigan State hits the road for the second consecutive weekend, as they travel to Lexington, Ky., for the ITA Kickoff Weekend and a pair of matches against ranked foes. The four-team tournament will begin on Friday, Jan. 25 with the fourth-seeded Spartans set to take on No. 1 seed Kentucky.

"Great competition, but that's what we signed up for," head coach Gene Orlando said. "We believe we can play at this level, now we have the opportunity and we are going to make the most of it. We are going to go out and give our best effort and hope things go our way at the end of the match. Our goal is to get into the tournament, and it comes down to competing with these teams. There is a risk to be paid, but hopefully it is worth it in the end."

The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 9 in the ITA national team rankings. In the second round, MSU will face either No. 17 Texas or No. 40 South Carolina. The winner of the of the tournament will earn a spot at the ITA National Indoor Championships, which will be hosted at the University of Washington on Feb. 15-18 in Seattle, Wash.

The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season ranked No. 9 after an impressive 2011-12 season that included an SEC championship and a final ranking of No. 7. The Wildcats continued their success from last season into the 2013 dual schedule, where they have earned two 7-0 victories to open the year. UK defeated Northern Kentucky and Morehead State in a double header on Jan. 20. Their next match is on Jan. 23, when they travel to Bloomington, Ind., to face the 22nd-ranked Hoosiers.

Head coach Cedric Kauffman is in his first season at the head of the Wildcats, but is supported by an experienced and talented lineup. Three Wildcats are ranked nationally among singles players (Anthony Rossi, Tom Jornby and Juan Pablo Murra), and the doubles team of Jornby and Kevin Lai is ranked No. 35.



No. 17 Texas Longhorns have opened the dual season with a perfect 3-0 record, including an impressive past weekend that included wins over No. 17 Tulsa 4-3, and a 6-1 victory over No. 25 Washington. The Longhorns enter the weekend with three ranked singles players (Soren Hess-Olesen, Daniel Whitehead, and Nick Naurmann.) South Carolina currently sits at No. 40 with a perfect 4-0 record after hosting a pair of doubleheaders to open the season. South Carolina opened the season on Jan. 12 with victories over Charlotte and Presbyterian, and added two more wins the following weekend against Appalachian State and Furman.

Head coach Gene Orlando is just five victories short of 300 total career wins. Orlando is in his 22nd season as the head coach at MSU, and spent his first three years at Bowling Green State University. Orlando has earned 264 of his 295 victories as a Spartan.

The Spartans split a pair of matches against ranked teams last weekend, falling to No. 33 Memphis 6-1, and beating 37th ranked Vanderbilt, 6-1. MSU rebounded after a tough loss to the Tigers with an impressive showing against Vanderbilt, taking two doubles matches and five of six singles contests to earn their first victory over a ranked opponent this season and move to 3-1.

Freshman JP Mullane, junior Aaron Pfister, and senior Denis Bogatov all earned wins in both singles and double play against the Commodores. Lied and Pfister notched an 8-5 victory in the No. 1 slot over Ryan Lipman and Marc van der Merwe, while Bogatov and Mullane took down Rhys Johnson and Anton Kovrigin, 8-3 in the No. 3 position. Despite falling in the first set to 20th ranked Gonzales Austin in the No. 1 singles slot, Pfister came back to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. Mullane defeated Rhys Johnson in straight sets at the No. 4 position, and Bogatov earned a victory in the No. 5 slot.

Junior Aaron Pfister was named Big Ten Men's Tennis Athlete of the Week as announced by the conference office on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Pfister went a perfect 3-0 in matches against Wright State and Detroit, leading MSU to a 4-3 win over Wright State and a 7-0 victory over the Titans. It marks Pfister's second weekly award of his career, he was last recognized on Nov. 2, 2011.

The Spartans return home next weekend to face the Princeton Tigers on Saturday, February 2 at 2 p.m.

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