SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Razorback men’s tennis team travels to the west coast this weekend to play in their final non-conference matches before the start of the SEC season. They will take on the 43rd-ranked Broncos of Santa Clara on Friday and then Pacific University on Saturday. Both matches will be played on the courts at Santa Clara at 5 p.m. and noon respectively.
The Hogs are coming off a quiet week that only saw one match against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane last Friday. Tulsa, who came into the match as the No. 23 team in the country, boasted some of the best doubles teams in the nation, and was Arkansas’ highest ranked opponent of the season. Tulsa struck early after winning the doubles point and then continued from there to win five straight singles matches. The Razorbacks didn’t go home empty-handed as junior Mike Ward won the final match of the day to earn his seventh win of the year.
Even with losses in two of their last three matches, Arkansas has continued to have one of its best starts in recent years. After beginning at 5-0, it was the Razorbacks’ best start since the 2006 season when that year’s squad started 6-0.
The Razorbacks have been rock solid this year in doubles as they have gone a combined 48-18 in doubles matches as a team. Many of those wins have come from the top Hog doubles team in junior Hall Fess and senior Matt Walters. The duo opened the year as winners of 13 of their first 14 matches dating back to the fall season. Their loss at Tulsa last week was their first loss since September of 2011.
Walters has also been one of the top singles players for the Hogs as he is one of three players with a double-digit win total overall this season. Walters leads all Hog players with 12 wins this year and has come out on top in six out of seven dual matches. All but one of his matches has come at the No. 3 spot, but he did record one win at the No. 2 position. Walter’s strong play to begin the year earned him SEC Player of the Week prior to the Razorbacks’ matches with Purdue and Stetson. He followed up the award with another flawless series of matches, going a combined 4-0 in singles and doubles against those two teams.
Arkansas has a very good opportunity to go into conference play with eight wins after this weekend, but will have to go through a highly respected team in Santa Clara, who has become a fixture in the ITA rankings in the recent years.
Coming into Friday’s match, Santa Clara has been ranked No. 43 in the recent ITA rankings, their highest in school history and holds a 7-2 record so far. They are coming off a big win over No. 57 UNLV last week and have played five of their nine matches against ranked opponents. Their other top wins include TCU and Boise State.
The Broncos top player comes in the form of senior Kyle Dandan, who is ranked No. 103 in singles by ITA this week. Dandan has built up a 4-2 record and has faced three ranked opponents, coming out as the winner in two of those three.
This is the second straight year that Arkansas has faced Santa Clara as they will try to make it two straight against their California counterparts. Last year, the Hogs pulled off a big 4-3 upset victory over the Broncos as it was one of their three ranked wins in the season.
Arkansas’ second opponent of the weekend will be Pacific University. The Tigers come in with a 3-3 record on the year with wins against UC-Davis, San Francisco and St. Mary’s. Their top player, senior Ivan Castro, will enter the match as the reigning Big West conference player of the week and is a combined 4-2 on the year in singles and doubles.
Arkansas opens the weekend against Santa Clara on Friday at 5 p.m. and then concludes on Saturday against Pacific at noon. Both matches will be played in Santa Clara, Calif. A full recap and complete results will be posted online following each day’s play.