April 23, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - After concluding the dual season with a win against Penn State on Sunday, the Michigan State men's tennis team will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Big Ten Championships Thursday, April 25 to Sunday, April 28 at Ohio State University's Varsity Tennis Center. The Spartans finished the season with a 6-5 conference record for the second consecutive year, and will be aiming for a third consecutive first round victory in the Big Ten Tournament.
No. 45 MSU enters the tournament as the seventh-seed and will face No. 10 seed Nebraska in the first round on Thursday, April 25 at 1:30 p.m. If the Spartans advance, they will take on second-seeded Minnesota on Friday at 1:30 p.m. Head coach Gene Orlando is stressing the consistency and focus that he has seen from his team all season.
"We just need to keep playing our game and doing what we have done to get to this point," Orlando said. "The message is one point at a time and one match at a time."
Ohio State earned the outright Big Ten title, finishing a perfect 11-0 in conference and 28-2 overall. It is the Buckeyes' 8th consecutive Big Ten Championship.
DUAL SEASON WRAP-UP
The Spartans have relied on a combination of young talent and experienced leadership throughout the lineup in both singles and doubles action. Senior Denis Bogatov and juniors Aaron Pfister and Drew Lied have been cornerstones at the top of the singles lineup, posting a combined 35 wins in dual matches.
Pfister, a 2011 All-Big Ten selection, has paced the Spartans all season at the No. 1 singles position, posting a 13-11 dual season record where he faced ten opponents ranked in the ITA top 75. Fellow junior Lied has recorded 11 wins in the No. 2 slot, and is tied for second-best on the team with a conference mark of 7-4.
Bogatov has played throughout the lineup, notching nine victories on courts two through five. Linders leads all Spartans in singles victories this dual season, posting 17 wins and a 7-4 record in Big Ten action.
Mullane sits just behind Linders, with 16 total victories. He owns a team best 8-3 record in conference play and his 13-3 record on court four is tied with Pfister for the most at any position.
Mullane and Lied have led the way for the Spartans in doubles on courts two and three, posting a 10-3 record and a team-best 8-2 mark in conference action. Harry Jadun and Gijs Linders have represented the Green and White at the No. 1 position, notching 12 total victories.
2012 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
After finishing the regular season 6-5, the Spartans entered last year's tournament as a seventh-seed and defeated Purdue, 4-3 in the first round. MSU faced No. 2 seed Michigan in the second round, falling 4-1. No. 3 seed Illinois went on to pull the upset in the championship match against top-seeded Ohio State, 4-3.
In the regular season dual match in Lincoln, the Spartans topped the 60th ranked Cornhuskers 5-2, taking the doubles point and four singles matches. The Spartans are especially looking for another key win in the tournament in hopes of bolstering their resume for a possible NCAA tournament berth.
"I think it's a must win for us in order to get to the tournament," Orlando said. "In every single match there are a few points that go either way and decide the outcome, and Nebraska is a very capable team. We're expecting it to be a dog fight and are playing with a lot on the line."
With a win on Thursday, the Spartans would face No. 2 seed Minnesota in the second round on Firday. The Gophers earned a narrow victory in East Lansing during the dual season, topping MSU 4-3 in a match that came down to the final singles set.
But Orlando believes the tough schedule the Green and White have endured this season will help them in facing talented opponents such as the Gophers.
"We've played a challenging schedule this season, and we have had success against some of the ranked opponents," Orlando said. "We know that we will be in a position to win and if we can close out the big points.
"There isn't much that separates the teams in this conference. It's strong from top to bottom, but we're hoping that what we have put in all season will help us get a win on Thursday and the chance to play on Friday."