FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ tennis team travels to Dallas to meet No. 34 North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Razorbacks, ranked No. 26 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, last played in the NCAA Tournament in 1998, advancing to the second round before being eliminated. If the Hogs get by UNC, they will face the winner of the Southern Methodist-Oral Roberts match on Sunday with a trip to Athens, Ga., for the Sweet 16 on the line.
Host SMU (20-2), ranked No. 8, is the top seed in the mini-regional while ORU (16-7) is the fourth seed. UA is the second seed and the Tarheels are the No. 3 seed.
“North Carolina is No. 34 in the country and has come on late in the season to make the tournament,” head coach Robert Cox says. “We played well late in the year to move up the rankings and insure a spot in the tournament, but our last match wasn’t a very good performance. Hopefully we will play the way we played before the SEC Tournament.”
The Hogs (15-9) lost to Mississippi State, 4-0, in the first round of the conference tournament on May 12 and haven’t played since.
UNC (11-7) has climbed the rankings despite not having any individuals ranked among the top 100 singles players or the top 50 doubles teams.
UA is led by Oskar Johansson, who spent most of the spring ranked No. 1 in the country. The senior is 28-9 and was recently named the ITA Region VI Player of the Year. He teams with another senior, Henrik Tofft, who is 13-12 and ranked No. 86, to form the 26th-ranked doubles team.
Johansson, currently No. 4 in singles, and Tofft are each ranked, but they’ve had plenty of help. Four other Razorbacks have 20 or more wins, including juniors Oggie Kolev (24-13), Magnus Kullenberg (21-12) and Tiago Azevedo (21-13), and sophomore Aleksey Bubis (25-10).
That balance has helped Arkansas bounce back from last year’s 6-15 finish, return to the national rankings, where the Hogs were a mainstay from 1980-99, and record their most wins since going 15-11 in 1994.
“We’ve had a great season turning things around after last year,” Cox says. “Hopefully we can keep it going this week and hopefully we’ll see some RazorRacket fans in the stands.”
The Tarheels have won three of their last four, including a 5-2 win over No. 20 Georgia Tech. Trystan Meniane leads UNC with a 19-11 singles mark, playing primarily the No. 4 position. Nicholas Monroe is 18-11 at No. 2 and Marcio Petrone 16-14 at No. 1.