Men's Tennis One of Eight Ranked Opponents at HEB Invitational
March 4, 2004
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis men's tennis team will travel to Corpus Christi, Texas, to participate in the H.E.B. Invitational for the second time in school history, starting Friday. Memphis advanced to the finals of the 2002 tournament, but that match against Middle Tennessee was rained out. The Tigers will open the 2004 tournament against the Shockers of Wichita State in the first round at 9:30 a.m.. The winner of that match will advance to a 3 p.m. match-up, also on Friday, against host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
The HEB Invitational features 11 teams, eight of which were ranked in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll released Tuesday. No. 41 South Alabama is the tournament's top seed, followed by No. 66 Texas Tech and No. 65 Ball State. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, the No. 4 seed, is currently ranked No. 63 in the country. No. 71 Memphis, No. 75 UAB, No. 65 Ball State, No. 68 Cornell and No. 69 UALR round out the ranked opponents. C-USA foes Marquette, UT-San Antonio, Northern Illinois and Wichita State round out the tournament. UAB moved into the national rankings last week following a win over the Tigers in the C-USA Inter Conference tournament.
With the stiff competition of the tournament, Memphis will rely on its depth to survive the two-matches-in-one-day schedule. Senior Lee Taylor Walker will look to snap a three-match losing streak from the C-USA matches last weekend, which dropped his overall singles mark to 5-4 after having a five-match win streak snapped against Southern Miss. Freshman James Spence leads the Tiger contingent with a 7-2 singles record after going 3-0 in singles and 2-1 in doubles last weekend. Spence has played all previous nine matches at No. 2 singles and has played at No. 1 doubles with Walker.
Junior Alex Bucewicz has handled a majority of the No. 3 singles duties for Memphis so far this season. Bucewicz, who won his last 12 matches of the regular season last spring, is off to a 6-1 start in 2004, with his lone loss coming at Tennessee in the season-opener. Bucewicz is also teaming with Marten Tamla or Sam Withell at No. 2 doubles. With Tamla, Bucewicz is 4-3 at No. 2, while he and Withell teamed together last weekend for the first time, winning their one match.
Tamla is making the adjustment after playing at No. 1 singles for UT Martin last season. The junior won three of his first four matches, but has gone 2-3 in the next five matches and will hope to get back on track this weekend.
Withell has only been in the U.S. for a little over two months and has already seen Eastern Tennessee, New Orleans, and now Texas. The freshman was inserted into the No. 5 singles spot in the line-up, and won three of his first four matches. He, like Tamla, has gone 2-3 over his last five singles matches, and will look to get over the .500 mark (4-4) with wins over the weekend.
The No. 6 spot is where the Tigers have shown some depth. Sophomore Alex Jago played at the six slot early in the season, compiling a 3-2 record while junior Mark Finnegan recovered from an off-season shoulder injury. With Finnegan and his 2-1 mark at No. 6, the Tigers should be able to play around with the line-up for the matches this weekend. Freshman Luke Campbell has also played one match at No. 6 this season, falling in his only singles action of the early season. Campbell has teamed with Jago and Withell and found some success at No. 3 doubles. With Jago, the duo is 4-1, while the team of Campbell and Withell is 2-1 in the third doubles slot.
Wichita State is 2-5 heading into the tournament and is already 0-3 against ranked opponents. Carlo Contente, Marko Despot and Goran Vujaklija have all spent some time at No. 1 singles, with Contente getting most of the nods at No. 1 in recent matches. Vujaklija has seen most of his singles action at No. 2, while all of the guys who have played No. 1, plus Juan Escalante, Boris Gubic and Gabriel Loredo have all spent at least one match at No. 3. Gubic has played five matches at No. 4, bringing a 2-3 record into the tournament, while Escalante is 1-3 at No. 5 singles. Westin Hudnall is 1-3 at No. 6 singles, but has also shared duties with Contente and Escalante there.
In doubles, the duos are a bit more defined. Escalante and Loredo are a solid 5-2 at No. 1 doubles, but have not gotten consistent points from the line-up below them. The No. 2 duo most commonly played is Contente/Gubic, but they have won just one of their first five No. 2 doubles matches. The team of Hudnall and Vujaklija are still looking for their first win a No. 3 doubles, while Vujaklija has teamed with Despot and Boris Gubic to pick up the only two wins at No. 3 that the team has.
The complete tournament bracket can be found at www.tennisinformation.com. The quick tournament ID search number is 5147258.