Jan. 24, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 49 Michigan State men's tennis team continues its trek through non-conference play as it heads to Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend to compete in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament. MSU (2-1) is scheduled to play No. 6 Tennessee Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Goodfriend Tennis Center. MSU will then play Sunday in either the championship match at 2 p.m. or the consolation match at 10 a.m.
"We train for these opportunities and look forward to playing Tennessee as well as VCU or NC State," head coach Gene Orlando said. "We will look forward to playing to the best of our ability and earning signature wins."
MSU is coming off its first loss of the season at the hands of No. 29 Notre Dame on the road last weekend. The Spartans lost by a score of 5-2 but many of the matches involved close tiebreak losses for MSU.
Senior co-captain Drew Lied led the way against the Irish. Lied tallied a doubles win with John Patrick Mullane defeating Billy Pecor and Eric Schnurrenberger on the No. 2 court. Lied also played on the No. 2 singles court and picked up a win over Ryan Bandy, rallying to win in three sets 5-6, 6-4, 6-4.
ITA Kick-off Weekend
Fifteen sites across the country will host a four-team tournament this weekend with the winner of each site advancing to the National Team Indoor Championships Feb. 14-17 in Houston, Texas. MSU drew the four seed in the region and will play the top-seeded and sixth-ranked host Volunteers. The No. 30th-ranked VCU Rams are the two seed and will face third-seeded and the No. 34-ranked NC State Wolfpack.
This will be the third consecutive year the Spartans will be participating in the national tournament. Last season, MSU found themselves in Kentucky's region. MSU fell to the ninth-ranked Wildcats 4-2, but rebounded the next day to win its consolation match over No. 40 South Carolina, 4-3.
Viewing the Volunteers
The sixth-ranked Volunteers hold a 4-0 record this season under eighth-year head coach Sam Winterbotham. Winterbotham was named the 2013 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Coach of the Year and helped lead Tennessee to the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee has swept three of the four opponents it has faced this season.
In singles, the Volunteers are led by redshirt junior Hunter Reese, ranked No. 16 in the nation, and by junior Mikelis Libietis. Libietis is ranked No. 34 in the nation and was named SEC Player of the Year last season.
In doubles, Tennessee is again led by Reese and Libietis who team up to form the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the nation. Senior Jarryd Chaplin and junior Brandon Fickey are ranked No. 28 in the nation in doubles.
The last time these two teams matched up was in the 2012 ITA Kick-Off event in which Tennessee was also the host. MSU lost the match 4-2 but seniors Aaron Pfister and Drew Lied were the two players accounting for the two wins. Pfister defeated Hunter Reese on the No. 3 court 6-3, 6-3, and Lied won his match on the No. 5 court in straight sets.
Forman's Good Start
Freshman Brett Forman is off to a solid start in his Spartan career. The former Mr. Tennis in the state of Michigan in 2012 is 3-0 in singles play this season, including a win over Notre Dame's Wyatt McCoy 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 last week. Forman has played two of his three matches on the No. 4 court. Teaming with senior Aaron Pfister he is also 1-1 in doubles play, including a tight tiebreak loss to Notre Dame.
Tough Schedule Ahead
After making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history last season, Coach Orlando certainly is not taking this year to celebrate and relax. Continuing with this Saturday at No. 6 Tennessee, six of the remaining 10 non-conference opponents are ranked in the top 47 in the country. Win or lose against Tennessee on Saturday and MSU will still face either No. 30 VCU or No. 34 NC State on Sunday as part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. MSU also has road dates with No. 8 Kentucky, No. 24 Tulsa, No. 26 Harvard and No. 47 Louisville remaining.
All the non-conference slate is in preparation for Big Ten play. The conference currently boasts 10 of its 12 members in the top 65 in the country, including No. 5 Ohio State and No. 22 Illinois.