FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas men’s tennis team will open it season Friday with the Shocker Invitational in Wichita, Kan. Head coach Robert Cox will travel with ten Razorback netters to the event that will also include players from Illinois State, Oklahoma and host Wichita State.
The Shocker Invitational, which runs through Sunday, will feature singles and doubles flights with a winner being determined by a point system. Matches will be played at the Genesis Health Club and Crestview Country Club.
The Razorbacks will be led this season by junior Blake Strode. The St. Louis, Mo., native is ranked 76th in the season’s first poll released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Strode is coming off a sophomore season in which he was named a first-team All-SEC performer, compiled a 27-11 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Singles Championships.
Strode will team with Colin Mascall, Arkansas’ lone senior, to form the Razorback’s top doubles team. The pair won 19 matches last season and earned a trip to the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Sophomore Taylor King and junior Connor Smith are coming off redshirt seasons. King missed the 2006-07 season due to an illness that kept him sidelined during the year and Smith served a year of residency after transferring to Arkansas from Tyler Junior College.
The Razorbacks’ roster features four other sophomores. Branden Joost, Dmitry Lebedev, Jorge Villanueva and Bradwin Williams all earned playing time last season. Lebedev and Villanueva were second and third on the team last season with 14 and 11 wins, respectively.
Cox welcomes a group of five freshman—Matt Hogan, Tariq Ismail, Chris Nott, Nick Spinazze, Tyler Tarnasky—to Fayetteville. Nott won a team-best 10 matches during the fall season. Hogan is a mid-season addition from Australia, while Tarnasky joins the Hogs after redshirting last season at Texas A&M.
The Arkansas netters face a tough 2008 schedule that includes 13 matches against opponents ranked in the top 50 of the Jan. 8 ITA poll. Nine of those match-ups will come against Southeastern Conference teams. There will be 14 regular-season home dates beginning with the Jan. 27 match against No. 69 Fresno State.
The non-conference home schedule also includes Texas (Feb. 1) and Tulsa (Feb. 14). The Razorbacks’ conference home schedule features matches against Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and LSU.
For the second time in program history, the University of Arkansas will host the SEC Championships on April 17-20. The conference championship event will also provide a showcase for the renovated indoor and outdoor facilities on the UA campus.
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