Oklahoma returns to the NCAA Championships after a six year absence. The Sooners last appeared in postseason play as a team in 1998. However, OU has had singles and doubles players to advance nationals two of the last five years.
No. 51 Oklahoma begins first-round action against No. 19 South Carolina (18-9) at the DeBois Tennis Center in Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Daily NCAA Tennis Regional information will be available at www.okstate.com.
The Sooners will face the Gamecocks in the first round, and the winner will advance to the second round to face either 13th-seeded and host Oklahoma State (21-6) or Southwest Missouri State (13-7). Sunday’s match is set for 2 p.m.
Oklahoma, who’s looking to snap a three-match losing skid, has a strong lineup as five of the six Sooners sport 20-or-more wins on the year. Playing at No. 1 singles for OU is sophomore Marek Velicka, winner of the fall ITA Region V Singles Championship. He owns an overall record of 28-12 and has played the top spot all season. Velicka is 46-17 (.730 winning percentage) in his two-year career with OU. He’s one of three players that have won 70 percent of their matches this year. Emotional leader and 6-5 senior Ondrej Fukala owns a team-best winning percentage of 75 percent, 24-8. He’s played a balance of matches at the No. 2 and 3 singles slots. Junior and Enid, Okla., native Tommy Garrison sports a 73 percent winning margin with an overall record of 22-8 between the No. 4 and 5 singles spots. Garrison is a flawless 10-0 at No. 4 singles and enters the NCAA Tournament winner of 16-straight matches.
“I am extremely proud of our team for what they have accomplished this year,” head coach Paul Lockwood said. “In addition, the team has earned a spot to play in the NCAA Tournament and I couldn’t be happier.”
“I feel good about our region,” Lockwood said. “South Carolina is an outstanding team year in and year out and will be a tough SEC opponent. Their top-20 ranking reflects how good they are and I know our team is really looking forward to the challenge.”
South Carolina At A Glance: South Carolina, who's ranked 19th in the ITA team rankings, has produced an overall record of 18-9 and finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference. Carolina has made 16 of the last 19 NCAA fields and has not missed the tournament since the 1993 season. USC’s 18 regular season wins are the most for the Gamecocks since the 1994 season when they picked up 19. The six conference wins are an SEC best for USC, while its six upsets of Top 25 opposition are also a school record.
OU-South Carolina Series: Saturday will be the first meeting between Oklahoma and South Carolina. OU is 1-4 against SEC teams since 1990. The Sooners have played five teams from the conference, including Arkansas twice. The Razorbacks suffered a 6-1 loss to OU earlier this season in Fayetteville.
OU In NCAA Matches: Oklahoma has played four NCAA Tournament matches, three against Big 12 Conference teams. OU is 0-4 in postseason play with losses to Kansas (4-1, 1998), Colorado (4-0, 1997 and 4-3, 1995) and Drake (4-1, 1994).
Big 12 Tournament Wrapup: The Sooners fell to No. 16 and arch rival Oklahoma State, 4-0, in the first round of the 2004 Big 12 Championships at Texas’ Penick-Alison Tennis Center in Austin, Texas. With the loss the Sooners suffered their 13th straight Bedlam tennis defeat.
20+ Club: Five Sooners have produced 20-or-more wins this season. Sophomore Marek Velicka leads the way with 28 victories, followed by junior Lee Gregg’s 25, senior Ondrej Fukala’s 24. Junior Tommy Garrison and senior Silviu Tanasoiu each have 22 wins.
Oklahoma’s Stellar Season: The Sooners enters postseason play with a record of 17-6, its fewest losses in 13 years. The 1992 squad ended the season with a 20-4 record after winning the Big 8 Tournament. Oklahoma also sent several Sooners to the NCAA Tournament that same year.
“The quality of this team and the 1992 team are similar in some of the positions. The Big 12 is tougher and has better depth than the Big Eight, but we have the quality individuals you need to compete well in the tournament,” said head coach Paul Lockwood.
Sooner Hot Streaks: Junior Tommy Garrison enters the NCAA Tournament winner of 16 consecutive matches. Garrison has defeated players from eight ranked teams and is three wins shy of tying the school record for most consecutive victories. Former OU standout Joe Braver holds the mark with 19 victories during the 1982 season.
Garrison currently has a 17-3 spring mark and has gone 10-0 at No. 4 singles and 7-0 against Big 12 opponents.
The Enid, Okla., native also carries momentum in doubles as he and senior Ondrej Fukala have won five of their last six matches at No. 1 doubles. In addition, OU’s No. 2 team of sophomore Marek Velicka and senior Silviu Tanasoiu have won six straight matches.
Sooners In National Rankings: Sophomore Marek Velicka, junior Alexei Ivanov and senior Ondrej Fukala were each recognized in the ITA singles rankings throughout the season. However, Velicka and Ivanov are the only two currently ranked. Velicka is 63rd, while Ivanov stands at 125th in the May 2 ITA Rankings.
As a team, Oklahoma is ranked 51st but has been as high as No. 41. OU started out the season ranked 66th.
OU’s doubles team of Velicka and senior Silviu Tanasoiu appeared in the rankings at No. 58 for a brief period after dispatching top-ranked Baylor’s No. 22 doubles team of Lars Poershke and Michal Kokta, 8-5.
OU Finds Regional Success: Oklahoma did not lose a regional match-up this season, leaving them at 7-0 when facing Region V opponents. OU has won 38 of 42 regional singles matches and 15 of 21 doubles matches.
Blazing Start: The Sooners produced the best start in school history with an 11-0 record this spring. Prior to that, OU’s best start-up was 9-0 accomplished by the 2004 squad. That team finished with an overall record of 17-7.
Sooner Seniors: OU’s two seniors, Ondrej Fukala and Silviu Tanasoiu, have made a big impact on Oklahoma tennis combining for 31 percent of OU’s singles wins this year. Both seniors have produced better than 20 victories each of their two seasons with the program.
Ondrej Fukala: Enters NCAA Tournament action with an overall record of 24-8, a spring mark of 17-3 and a 4-3 record in the Big 12...Produced a 15-4 spring doubles record with Tommy Garrison at the No. 1 spot...One of five Sooners to have posted 20 or more victories this season, winning eight of last 10 matches...Two of the three singles losses were in three set matches, losing to No. 1 Baylor’s 19th-ranked Lars Poershcke in a tie-breaker and CU’s Marko Bundalo...Went 6-1 against regional opponents...Produced 20 or more singles wins the last two years.
Silviu Tanasoiu: Currently sports a 13-7 spring singles record and owns a 22-10 overall mark...Is 16-5 at No. 2 doubles with Marek Velicka...Worked for a 7-1 record verse Region V opponents...Owns a 5-3 mark at the No. 5 spot...Defeated top-ranked Baylor’s No. 22 duo of Lars Poershke and Michal Kokta, 8-5.
OU Newcomers: OU strengthen its lineup this season by adding three freshmen to its roster. Topping that group is Ryan Thomas, who has made an impact on the team in several matches, including a win over Texas’ Garrett Snyder to help clinch the win over nationally-ranked Longhorns.
Head Coach Paul Lockwood: Paul Lockwood is in his 18th season as Oklahoma head men’s tennis coach. The OU graduate has compiled an overall record of 251-160 and claimed the Big Eight conference title in 1992. Lockwood was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1991 and 1992 for his outstanding commitment to Sooner tennis. Lockwood’s teams have also earned eight Academic ITA All-America team honors (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004).