Feb. 7, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 50 Michigan State men's tennis team hits the road again Sunday as it travels to Lexington, Ky., to face No. 17 Kentucky. Play will begin at 1 p.m. from the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
MSU is coming off a doubleheader sweep in its last outing, Feb. 1, defeating both Ball State and Eastern Illinois by a final tally of 7-0. The Spartans did not drop a single set all day. Seniors Drew Lied and Aaron Pfister, and freshman Brett Forman were among the Spartans who earned starts in singles and doubles of both matches.
Lied, Pfister and Forman all tallied a 4-0 record on the day. With the win, Forman is currently on a five-match winning streak in dual play. Lied improved to a 3-0 record on the No. 1 singles court and Pfister improved to 3-0 on the second court.
MSU's sweep last weekend snapped a three-match losing streak. MSU had dropped its previous three matches, all to opponents ranked higher than the No. 50 Spartans and all matches were on courts away from East Lansing. MSU dropped a tight match to then-No. 29 Notre Dame on Jan. 19, and then fell to then-No. 6 Tennessee and then-No. 34 NC State at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend a week later.
No. 17 Kentucky will be the fourth ranked opponent of the season for the Spartans. Kentucky was ranked as high as No. 8 earlier in the season. Head coach Gene Orlando says his team has learned from each ranked opponent it has played.
"We'll just keep on doing the things we've been doing and trust in that we're doing all the right things and working hard," Orlando said. "We're going to be in a position, we just have to take advantage of that moment when the opportunity presents itself. There's no doubt that we are right there with every team we play. I just think we've got to have a different mentality of playing our game and treating it just like another match. I feel like we treat those other matches as if `ok, here it is, we've got to get this one,' instead of saying `ok, let's just go play,' and what happens happens."
Keying in on Kentucky
Kentucky is coming off its fourth-straight Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament last year under second-year head coach Cedric Kauffmann. Kentucky holds a 5-2 record and has defeated two ranked opponents in then-No. 7 Duke on the road and then-No. 56 Indiana. Its two losses came at the hands of No. 16 Notre Dame on back-to-back weekends.
The Wildcats feature three of their singles players nationally ranked. Sophomore Beck Pennington is the highest ranked player at No. 55, with senior Tom Jomby at No. 68 and sophomore Kevin Lai at No. 97.
Jomby is a perfect 7-0 on the No. 1 singles court. Three of Jomby's wins have come over ranked opponents from Duke, Indiana and Notre Dame. Jomby was named a 2013 ITA All-American and was named to the 2013 All-SEC First Team.
Jomby also teams with sophomore Kevin Lai on the top doubles court. The tandem is 5-2 on the year, with both of their losses coming to Notre Dame.
MSU last faced Kentucky on Jan. 25, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. The No. 9 Wildcats took out the No. 47 Spartans, 4-2. Junior Gijs Linders and sophomore John Patrick Mullane recorded the two wins on the day for MSU.
Team Posts Highest GPA
During his tenure at MSU, Coach Orlando has always placed a high emphasis on exceling in the classroom, as well as on the court and this year has been no exception. In a release from MSU's Student Athlete Support Services, Orlando's squad posted team cumulative grade-point average of 3.39, the highest cumulative GPA among all men's sports on campus.
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. Of MSU's five matches it has played, three of them have been against ranked opponents on the road. Continuing this weekend at No. 17 Kentucky, the Spartans still have road dates with still No. 34 Tulsa, No. 25 Harvard and No. 49 Louisville remaining. The Spartans will be battle-tested when it comes time for Big Ten play. The conference currently boasts 10 of its 12 members in the top 75 in the country, including No. 5 Ohio State and No. 22 Illinois.