HOUSTON, Texas – The No. 8 Texas A&M men’s tennis team will face a familiar foe No. 6 Baylor in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Houston on Friday. The Aggies (6-2) and Bears (6-0) are set to serve at 6 p.m. Friday at Downtown Club at the Met in first round action.
“I anticipate a highly contested close match that will come down to the final match because these two teams are pretty evenly matched,” head coach Steve Denton said. “Baylor is a very experienced team and one of the better teams in the Big 12 along with in the entire country this year.”
The maroon and white will compete in the event for the fourth consecutive season, returning from an 0-3 outing last season in Seattle, Washington. The two Brazos Valley schools met in the 2012 tournament with A&M handling the Bears 4-0. Current team members Jackson Withrow, Junior Ore, Jeremy Efferding all competed that day contributing to the A&M point total.
The ITA Tennis National Championship is being hosted by Texas A&M at the Downtown Club at the Met and Galleria Tennis and Athletic Center from Feb. 14-17. The top 16 teams from around the country are all in Houston having qualified through the ITA Kick-Off Weekend a couple weeks ago, as the host institution Texas A&M automatically qualified for the tournament.
“With this match being indoors it will be up to our guys to get off to a good start in the doubles then quickly acclimating to the conditions that these two great venues present,” Denton said. “I think the guys got a great opportunity to play a couple quality matches indoors last weekend, I know our guys played better at Ohio State after a couple days indoors which will carry over to this weekend after having a week of indoor tennis under our belt.”
Coming off a record weekend, the duo of Ore and Withrow moved up to No. 3 in the latest ITA Rankings, Efferding and Jordan Szabo come in at No. 29 in the Feb. 11 rankings. The Aggies boast three ranked singles competitors including No. 22 Harrison Adams, No. 25 Jeremy Efferding, and No. 43 Shane Vinsant.
“Junior and Jackson really served well all weekend’” Denton said. “The key thing indoors with the new format is to back up your serve and those two guys did that all last weekend.”
Baylor is led by a trio of ranked players on the singles side; Julian Lenz, Patrick Pradella and Diego Galeano are ranked No. 6, 9, and 18 respectively in the latest ITA rankings.
Friday’s matchup represents the 54th meeting between the two teams and is the first meeting since Texas A&M left the Big 12 Conference following the 2012 season. A&M holds the all-time series lead with Baylor at 19-33-1 that dates back to the 1970 season, despite dropping eight of the last 11 matchups.
Texas A&M is guaranteed at least three matches in Houston, with a potential fourth match on Monday to determine the champion. The winner of Baylor and Texas A&M will face the winner of No. 14 Tennessee and No. 3 USC in the quarterfinal round scheduled for Saturday at the Galleria Tennis and Athletic Center.
A complete draw and live scoring of matches can be found itatennis.com. Stay tuned to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieMTEN on Twitter for complete tournament coverage.