FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ tennis team is in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year, but this time the Razorbacks don’t have to travel far after being selected to host a regional for the first time.
Arkansas, ranked No. 27 in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, was chosen as one of 16 host sites for the first and second-round matches to be played May 15-16.
UA, which is also the No. 1-ranked team in Region V (all schools in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas), will face No. 31 Oklahoma State (17-5) in the first round while No. 18 Tennessee (13-8), the No. 15 seed in the tournament, will meet Wichita State (17-11) in the other match. The two winners will meet in Sunday’s second round match. The 16 regional winners advance to Tulsa for the remainder of the championships from May 22-25.
“It’s great,” head coach Robert Cox said of hosting the first and second round matches. “It’s exciting to play at home. We have some of the best fans in the country with our RazorRackets and other supporters.”
The Razorbacks are 14-9 and led by a pair of nationally ranked singles players in sophomore Adrians Zguns (33-9) and senior Nathan Price (30-11). Zguns is ranked No. 18 in the nation and Price No. 38, and they are the first Hogs to win 30 matches in a season since All-American Marcus Hilpert went 47-4 in 1994.
Sophomore Rohan Gajjar has won four straight and is 17-13, junior Imraan Ismail is 18-15, sophomore Matt Roberts 14-16 and freshman Matt Simpson 9-14. Price and Simpson also form the No. 52 doubles team in the country.
“We have a good young team with only one senior,” Cox says. “This is our fourth (NCAA) bid in a row so we’re building and hopefully we can bring it on home. Playing at home doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a good crowd behind you and good tennis tradition, and we have both.”
The Razorbacks know the other teams in their region well after facing all three this season.
“We’re very familiar with all three of them and that’s a little reassuring,” Cox says. “We won two of those three matches and lost 4-3 to Tennessee.”
UA beat Wichita State at home on Feb. 20, 7-0, beat then-No. 19 Oklahoma State, 4-3, in Tulsa on Feb. 28, and lost at home to then-No. 39 Tennessee.
“Oklahoma State is tough,” Cox says. “It came down to the last match. They play good doubles and they went on a streak in the Big 12. They are similar to us.”
This year marks the 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Razorbacks. Last year, UA lost to Ohio State in the first round, 4-0, at Lexington, Ky. In 2002, the Hogs beat host Tulsa, 4-0, before losing to eventual national champion Southern Cal, 4-0. Arkansas also reached the regional final in 2001 with a 4-0 win over North Carolina before losing to host SMU, 4-3.