TULSA, Okla. — Arkansas’ 24th-ranked men’s tennis team opens play in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a 9 a.m. match at the Michael Case Tennis Center at No. 42 Tulsa, and the Razorbacks are looking for their second win this year over the Golden Hurricane.
The other first-round match has No. 11 Southern Cal (19-5) meeting Oral Roberts (10-12) at 1 p.m. The two winners meet Sunday at noon for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 at College Station, Texas, May 18.
Arkansas, 14-9, beat Tulsa in Fayetteville on Feb. 12, 6-1. Arkansas was ranked No. 30 at the time and Tulsa No. 47, but as head coach Robert Cox points outs, a lot has changed since then.
“We defeated Tulsa earlier this year, but it was a lot closer than the 6-1 result,” he says. “We won three close three-set matches and a tough doubles point. We played them at our place in early February, indoors, in front of our crowd and in the evening. This time, the match is in the NCAA Tournament, it’s in Tulsa, is outdoors, in front of their fans and in the morning. It’s a completely different environment and situation.”
Arkansas has been solid in singles most of the year. Senior Oggie Kolev leads the team with a 25-13 record and is ranked No. 35 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Aleksey Bubis is next in victories with a 22-12 mark at No. 4 while Eduardo Pacheco is 21-12 at No. 5, but two other players, sophomore Nathan Price and Magnus Kullenberg, join Kolev in the national rankings. Price is 13-9 at No. 2 and tied for 92nd in the nation while Kullenberg is 10-4 at No. 3 and ranked No. 116. Freshman Kristofer Ivarsson is 11-4 at the No. 6 spot.
Tulsa’s lineup has Pawel Sebastyanski (14-13) at No. 1, Dane McGregor (19-13) at No. 2, Ryan Livesay (20-17) at No. 3, Alejandro Tejerina (21-8) at No. 4, Dustin Taylor (16-15) at No. 5 and Shri Sudhakara (25-9) at No. 6.
“We’ve had a great week of practice with the guys juggling their schedule between finals and practice,” Cox says. “They are ready and excited to compete again. We are very respectful of Tulsa. They are talented and can play.”
Arkansas is 8-9 against ranked teams this year but the Hogs have lost five straight following a six-match winning streak. Tulsa is 16-11, including a 5-11 mark against ranked teams.
In addition to the earlier meeting, Arkansas and Tulsa have faced three common opponents. Arkansas beat Tulane, 5-2, lost to Auburn, 4-3, and lost to TCU, 5-2. Tulsa lost to Tulane, 5-2, and Auburn, 6-1, and beat TCU, 5-2.
The Razorbacks are making their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their sixth in the last nine years. Arkansas is looking to win its opening match in NCAA Tournament play for the third straight time and the sixth time in its last seven appearances.
Last year, Arkansas beat North Carolina, 4-0, in the first round before losing to host and seventh-ranked SMU, 4-3, in the regional final.