FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After making its run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Arkansas’ tennis team matched its best final ranking of the last 10 years by ending the season at No. 24 in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
Arkansas finished 16-10, which matches its best win total of the last 13 years, and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1986. The Razorbacks hosted an NCAA regional for the first time and beat No. 31 Oklahoma State, 4-3, and No. 18 Tennessee, 4-1, to advance to the Sweet 16, where they were knocked out by No. 4 Southern Cal, 4-1.
Ten SEC teams finished the year ranked in the top 30 and all 12 are in the top 39.
Individually, sophomore Adrians Zguns went 36-10 and finished the year ranked No. 23, and senior Nathan Price was 31-13 and ranked No. 35. Zguns’ victory total is the fourth-most in school history while Price’s mark ranks fifth. Each earned All-Southeastern Conference honors, marking the first time UA had two singles players make the all-conference team since Tim Crichton and Daniel Pahlsson in 1996, and they were Arkansas’ first 30-match winners since All-American Marcus Hilpert went 47-4 in 1994.
Price’s record included a 10-5 mark at the No. 1 position and a 6-5 record in SEC play. Zguns was 13-2 at No. 2 and 8-3 in conference matches.
Each qualified for the NCAA individual championships while Price and doubles partner Matt Simpson also qualified in doubles. Price was eliminated in the first round in singles and doubles, and Zguns advanced to the second round.
On the regional level, Arkansas ended the year ranked No. 1 in the ITA’s Central Region V. Price was ranked No. 2, Zguns No. 3 and sophomore Rohan Gajjar No. 12. Gajjar went 19-14 overall, was 6-5 against SEC competition and had match-clinching victories against Georgia and in both matches in the regional against OSU and Tennessee.
Head coach Robert Cox was named the region Coach of the Year, Zguns the region’s Player to Watch for next year and Price, the only senior on this year’s team, earned the John Van Nostrand Memorial Award which goes to a senior planning to pursue a professional career. The Player to Watch award goes to a player who has an outstanding season and is expected to perform at a high level the rest of his career. This award’s criteria also includes a player’s sportsmanship and character.
Cox became UA’s all-time victories leader during the season with the 6-1 win at Hawaii on March 12. He is 225-192 in 17 years at Arkansas, replacing Tom Pucci (218) as the school’s all-time wins leader. In 20 years overall, Cox is 333-217.
In doubles, Price and Simpson were ranked No. 2 in the region, Zguns and Gajjar (10-9) No. 9, and sophomore Matt Roberts and junior Imraan Ismail (12-11) No. 17. Roberts was 16-16 at No. 5 singles and Ismail 19-16 at No. 6.
UA, which has earned four straight NCAA Tournament bids and won its first-round tournament match in five of its last six appearances, also ended the year ranked No. 24 in 2002 when the Hogs were 15-10. The last time Arkansas was ranked higher was 1993 when the Razorbacks ended the year No. 22. This year’s 16-10 record matches the record of 2001 and is the most wins since 1991 when UA went 17-9.