FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ tennis team is hoping to earn a trip to Tulsa with two wins this weekend as the Razorbacks play host to an NCAA Regional Saturday and Sunday.
The winner of the four-team regional advances to Tulsa next week, along with the winner from 15 other regionals, for the remainder of the championship tournament.
Arkansas is playing host to an NCAA tennis regional for the first time. Saturday’s schedule has Tennessee, the No. 1 seed in the regional and the No. 15 overall seed in the tournament, facing Wichita State at 10 a.m. The Razorbacks face Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. The two winners meet Sunday at 1 p.m. The matches will be played at the UA Outdoor Tennis Complex. Admission is $5. If weather prevents the matches from being played outside, they will move inside the Dills Indoor Tennis Center.
Arkansas has already faced all three teams this season. UA, ranked No. 27 in the nation, beat then-No. 19 Oklahoma State, 4-3, in Tulsa on Feb. 28. The Hogs beat Wichita State, 7-0, in Fayetteville on Feb. 20 and lost to then-No. 39 Tennessee, 4-3, in Fayetteville on March 5.
OSU is currently ranked No. 31 and UT is No. 18.
“We’re ready,” UA head coach Robert Cox says. “My only concern is that we’ve had such a big layoff (since the SEC Tournament – April 22). We’ll probably have to feel our way around for the first three or four games. It will be exciting. It should be a war.”
Arkansas’ lineup has senior Nathan Price at No. 1 and sophomore Adrians Zguns at No. 2. Each earned All-Southeastern Conference honors and has already been selected to participate in the NCAA individual singles championships at Tulsa May 26-31. Price (30-11) and Zguns (33-9) are the first Razorbacks to win 30 matches in a season since All-American Marcus Hilpert went 47-4 in 1994.
Sophomore Rohan Gajjar is at No. 3, freshman Matt Simpson at No. 4, sophomore Matt Roberts No. 5 and junior Imraan Ismail at No. 6. Gajjar (17-13) is the hottest Hog with four straight wins while Ismail (18-15) is third on the team in victories. Simpson, who joined the team in January, is 9-14 and Roberts 14-16.
In doubles, Price and Simpson (8-11), who are ranked No. 52 in the nation and have also been invited to the NCAA individual tournament, are at No. 1. Roberts and Ismail (11-9) are at No. 2, and Zguns and Gajjar (10-7) at No. 3.
Oklahoma State (17-5) has 24th-ranked Mark Van Elden (18-3) at No. 1, Yevgen Bondarchuk (10-12) at No. 2, Tomas Bohunicky (18-3) at No. 3, Boris Kuharic (17-5) at No. 4, Daniel Byrnes (15-6) at No. 5 and Juan Felipe Diaz (12-8) at No. 6.
Van Elden and Bohunicky are 0-4 at No. 1 doubles, Bondarchuk and Kuharic 11-8 at No. 2, and Byrnes and Diaz 2-1 at No. 3.
“Both teams have improved (since the first meeting),” Cox says. “The two teams mirror each other. Four of the six singles matches will be different matchups from the first time. It will be like a new match.”
In this year’s first meeting Van Elden beat Zguns at No. 1, 6-1, 6-2; Price beat Bondarchuk at No. 2, 6-4, 6-4; Bohunicky beat Simpson at No. 3, 6-1, 6-3; Kuharic topped Gajjar at No. 4, 7-6, 6-7, 1-0 (10-1); Roberts downed Byrnes at No. 5, 6-3, 7-5; and Ismail stopped Diaz at No. 6, 6-0, 7-5.
UA won the doubles point with wins from Price and Simpson at No. 1 over Van Elden and Byrnes, 8-2; and Roberts and Ismail at No. 2 over Bondarchuk and Kuharic, 9-8. OSU’s Diaz and Bohunicky beat Zguns and Gajjar at No. 3, 8-6.