NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 11 Texas A&M men’s tennis team advanced to the SEC Men’s Tennis Championship match by defeating No. 12 Kentucky Saturday afternoon at the Currey Tennis Center on Vanderbilt’s campus. The Aggies improved to 23-6 on the season and will face the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Vanderbilt and Florida for the SEC title. Kentucky fell to 21-9 on the season with the loss.
"We've graduated a little bit so I'm pleased with our progress,” Texas A&M men’s tennis head coach Steve Denton said. “You know, there's still a lot of tennis to be played. Tomorrow either team is obviously going to be a huge test for us. I'm pleased with where our guys are right now. I feel like the biggest prize is the NCAA tournament. All these matches are great preparation for it.”
The Aggies won the doubles point for the 25th time this season. The 66th-ranked duo of Harrison Adams and Shane Vinsant defeated Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez on court two, dropping just one game in the match. The 5th-ranked tandem of Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow clinched the point with an 8-6 win over No. 39 Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai on doubles court one.
"Doubles was huge as we were down at the break in number one doubles,” Denton said. “For us to be able to come back there, our guys played very well at the end of the doubles to get that doubles point. That proved to be really important for us.”
As play transitioned to singles play the match leveled out as each team took the first set on three courts. Kentucky evened the match via Kevin Lai’s straight-set victory over Jackson Withrow on court five. Just a few minutes later Junior Ore restored A&M’s lead with a win over Jerry Lopez on court four.
“Junior played a complete match for us today,” Denton said. “He really stood out and showed great senior leadership. You could see the intensity in his eyes.”
Moments later, Jordan Szabo put another point on the board for the Aggies, defeating Grant Roberts in straight sets. The Australia native, improved to 2-0 in singles play at the SEC Championship.
Junior Jeremy Efferding continued his torrid play clinching the win for the maroon and white against Beck Pennington on court three. The Floridian has won his last 10 singles matches.
“I felt like our guys wanted it today a lot,” Denton added. “They competed their butts off, and as a result, we were able to scrape through, get a couple matches under our belt, and keep the momentum on our side."
Texas A&M will play for the SEC Championship Sunday at 1 p.m. against the winner of fourth-seeded Florida and eighth-seeded and host Vanderbilt. Stay tuned to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieMTEN on Twitter for information regarding Texas A&M men’s tennis.
No. 11 Texas A&M def. No. 12 Kentucky, 4-1
Texas A&M (23-6, 10-2); Kentucky (21-9, 9-3)
No 1 – No. 14 Harrison Adams (TAMU) vs. No. 11 Tom Jomby (UK) 4-6, 6-4, 2-3 unfinished
No 2 – No. 21 Shane Vinsant (TAMU) vs. No. 80 Alejandro Gomez (UK) 6-7(5), 6-0, 3-1 unfinished
*No 3 – No. 51 Jeremy Efferding (TAMU) vs. Beck Pennington (UK) 6-3, 7-6(1)
No 4 – Junior Ore (TAMU) def. Jerry Lopez (UK) 6-4, 6-3
No 5 – Kevin Lai (UK) def. Jackson Withrow (TAMU) 6-2, 6-4
No 6 – Jordan Szabo (TAMU) def. Grant Roberts (UK) 7-6(6), 6-1
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (5,4,6,3)
*clinched the match