FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ men’s tennis team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and the sixth time in nine seasons as the Razorbacks earned a bid on Tuesday and will play Tulsa in Tulsa at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 11.
Arkansas, ranked No. 24 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, is the No. 2 seed in the region while No. 42 Tulsa (16-11) is the No. 3 seed. The other match in the four-team regional has top-seeded and 11th-ranked Southern Cal (19-5) facing fourth-seeded Oral Roberts (10-12).
“We kind of thought we would be in a region with Tulsa and ORU,” UA head coach Robert Cox said. “We’re just happy to be in the tournament two years in a row.”
The Hogs, 14-9, have not played since April 18 when they were knocked out of the Southeastern Conference tournament with a 4-2 loss to South Carolina.
Arkansas is 8-9 against ranked teams this year but has lost its last five matches following a six-match winning streak. One of the wins over a ranked opponent was a 6-1 decision over then-No. 47 Tulsa in Fayetteville on Feb. 12.
“We played them three months ago but it was a tough match,” Cox said. “We won the doubles point and then won three three-set singles matches so we have tremendous respect for Tulsa, plus we’re playing at their place. We need to shore up our doubles. We’re pretty good in singles but we need to work on doubles. We’ve had a couple of weeks off so I think we’ll be ready.”
Senior Oggie Kolev, who plays No. 1 and is ranked No. 35 in the nation, also earned a bid to the NCAA individual singles tournament May 18-27 in College Station, Texas. Kolev leads the Razorbacks with a 25-13 mark. Nathan Price is 13-9 at No. 2 and tied for 92nd in the national rankings while Magnus Kullenberg is 10-4 at No. 3 and ranked No. 116.
The rest of UA’s lineup has Aleksey Bubis (22-12) at No. 4, Eduardo Pacheco (21-12) at No. 5 and Kristofer Ivarsson (11-4) at No. 6.
Last year, Arkansas beat North Carolina, 4-0, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing 4-3 to seventh-ranked and region host SMU in the regional final.
The Razorbacks have won their opening tournament match in their last three NCAA appearances and in five of the last six.
For the second straight year, all 12 SEC members earned bids to the tournament. Last year was the first time a league sent all 12 members into the NCAA Tournament in any sport.
“Our SEC Tournament winner is the only NCAA lock and the other 11 teams must secure an at-large bid,” Cox said. “In other words, 31 conference winners are the only ‘for sure’ participants, which leaves only 33 at-large bids. It really says something that the SEC is so deep that the other 11 SEC programs are good enough to warrant a bid to the tournament.”