Sooners Host 2018 ITA Kickoff Weekend

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

OklahomaNorthwesternIllinoisGeorgia Tech
No. 18 Oklahoma, Northwestern, No. 16 Illinois, Georgia Tech
Jan. 27-28 | Headington Family Tennis Center

NORMAN – The No. 18 Oklahoma men's tennis team returns to the Headington Family Tennis Center this weekend to host the ITA Kickoff Weekend. OU is one of 15 schools across the country to host a regional for ITA Kickoff Weekend. The Sooners' competition will feature one ranked opponent in No. 16 Illinois along with Northwestern and Georgia Tech.

The Sooners' first match will be Saturday at 2 p.m. CT against Northwestern. A Sooners’ win would result in a 1 p.m. CT Sunday matchup with the winner of the Illinois/Georgia Tech match, which will take place Saturday morning at 10 a.m. CT.  The consolation matchup will take place Sunday at 10 a.m. CT.

The winner of the four-team regional will qualify for the ITA Division I National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash. Feb. 16-19. OU's two matches this weekend will air on Fox Sports Oklahoma. 

"We are honored to host the ITA Kickoff again this year and look forward to playing in front of our great fans. It means so much to our guys to see everyone cheering them on and really inspires them to fight even harder," OU head coach Nick Crowell said. "We have been working hard and look forward to this great opportunity," Crowell added. 

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma (5-0) has held steady at the No. 18 spot in the first three Oracle/ITA team rankings through Jan. 24. In singles action, junior Ferran Calvo is ranked No. 17 nationally. In doubles competition, Sooners’ sophomore duo of Adrian Oetzbach and Jochen Bertsch are nationally ranked at No. 43.

OU recorded its fourth and fifth straight victory last weekend when it defeated Arizona (4-1) and Abilene Christian (4-0) at the Headington Family Tennis Center to remain undefeated in dual match play. Four Sooners have yet to lose a singles match this spring: junior Alex Bakshi (3-0), freshman James Davis (2-0), and sophomores Jochen Bertsch (5-0) and Adrian Oetzbach (4-0).  In doubles competition, OU has clinched the doubles point in all five of it’s dual matches. Duos of Oetzbach/ Bertsch (3-0), Alex Bakshi/James Davis (3-0), Jake van Emburgh/Ferran Calvo (2-0), James Davis/Max Stewart (1-0), and Stefano Tsorotiotis/Mason Bridegan (1-0) have all recorded wins on the doubles courts. 

The Sooners have welcomed six new faces to the program from a season ago. Two transfers, juniors Ferran Calvo (Tyler Junior College) and Alex Bakshi (Texas A&M), along with four freshmen, James Davis, Max Stewart, Stefano Tsorotiotis, and Jake van Emburgh. Each newcomer has recorded a victory either in singles or doubles play to start the spring season. Five of the six competed in the fall for the Sooners, with JUCO transfer Ferran Calvo proving himself as a valid candidate for the No. 1 singles spot. Calvo finished the fall slate with a 22-4 record after starting on a 17-match win streak.

The Valencia, Spain, native took home wins at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational and Alabama Four-in-the-Fall while also representing the Sooners at the Oracle/ITA Fall National Championships, finishing in the consolation quarterfinal.  Other newcomers won their first collegiate titles for the Sooners including Alex Bakshi winning the Napa Valley Tennis Classic in his first tournament as a Sooner, and freshman Jake van Emburgh notching his first title at the Alabama Four-in-the-Fall as well, winning the Houndstooth flight. 

SCOUTING NORTHWESTERN

The Northwestern Wildcats are led by head coach Arvid Swan in his 11th season at the helm in Evanston. The WIldcats have made six straight NCAA tournament appearances under Swan and look to make it seven this season with five returning members from the 2017 team that reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. NU has started the season 1-1 with a narrow loss to NC State, 4-3, before besting Boise State, 5-0, to record their first win of the season.

In singles play, the Wildcats have relied heavily on fresh faces early in 2018. Freshman Antonioni Fasano has competed at the No. 1 spot in the Wildcats first two dual matches, recording a win over the No. 16 ranked player in the nation, NC State’s Alexis Galarneu, and going unfinished in his second matchup. All three first-year players in the singles lineup for NU has recorded wins to start the season (Fasano, AJ Joshi, and Nick Brookes).

SCOUTING ILLINOIS

Illinois is coached by Brad Dancer, entering his 14th season as head coach of the Fighting Illini. The Illini concluded the 2016-17 season with a 18-12 record which included an appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Illini begin dual-match play this weekend at the ITA Kickoff in Norman as the No. 16 team in the nation in the Oracle/ITA rankings.

The No. 16 Fighting Illini return key seniors Aron Hiltzik and Aleks Vukic from a year ago. Vukic earned ITA All-America honors for the second straight season following his 2017 campaign that saw him go 24-3 in singles play with a 12-0 record in Big Ten competition. Illinois started the 2018 spring slate by traveling to Atlanta to take on players from Columbia, Georgia, and Georgia Tech in the MLK Invitational. Three underclassmen picked up wins for the Fighting Illini in Atlanta, with sophomore Zeke Clark defeating the No. 66 Nathan Ponwith from Georgia.

SCOUTING GEORGIA TECH

Georgia Tech is headed by reigning ACC Coach of the Year Kenny Thorne and looks to advance to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament in 2018. The Yellow Jackets have started dual-match play with a 3-1 record with two wins against The Citadel in a doubleheader and a victory over Auburn. Their only loss came at the hands of Tennessee in a tight 4-3 decision on Jan. 19. 

The Jackets’ seniors Elijah Melendez and Michael Kay have compiled an undefeated 4-0 record in singles play to start the season. Sophomores Carlos Divar and Chris Yun have also had exceptional starts to the season from the No. 2 and 3 spot in the singles lineup. Divar is nationally ranked at No. 85 in singles the ITA. Georgia Tech is 9-2 overall in doubles matches to start the 2018 slate.

PROMOTIONS

This weekend’s matches will feature free t-shirts, free food from Raising Canes, and free OU tennis t-shirts available to fans in attendance. Along with the giveaways, fans may enter for a chance to win an Apple 4KTV. All matches throughout the weekend will be played indoors with free admission.


For more information on OU men's tennis, follow the team on Twitter @OU_MTennis.

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