OU to Host Undefeated Teams For ITA Kickoff
NORMAN – For the seventh consecutive year, the Oklahoma men’s tennis team will host ITA Kickoff Weekend when it welcomes undefeated teams Drake, Vanderbilt and No. 17 Notre Dame to the Headington Family Tennis Center Saturday.
No. 1 seed OU will face No. 4 Drake on Jan. 26, while No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Notre Dame square off on the other side of the bracket.
The winners of those matches will face each other Jan. 27 with a trip to the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships (held Feb. 15-18 in Chicago, Ill.) on the line. OU brought home the ITA National Indoor title in 2015.
"It's been unbelievable the support that we've gotten,” said head coach Nick Crowell. “We'd love to have huge crowds out this weekend and we encourage our fans to come out and cheer and get excited."
The Sooners enter the weekend at 4-0 overall. In its last competition, Oklahoma picked up back-to-back sweeps of Creighton (4-0) and Omaha (7-0). Two Sooners picked up their first dual match victories over the weekend, with freshmen Matt Rodriguez earning a 6-1, 6-4 victory at the No. 6 line to clinch OU’s win over Creighton.
Fellow newcomer Rafa Izquierdo notched two singles wins, defeating Creighton’s Mac Mease, 6-2, 6-0, and completing OU’s sweep of Omaha with a 7-6 (4), 7-5 win over Nathan Reekie on court four.
Ten Sooners have made singles appearances through four matches this season, and OU has yet to give up a team point, sweeping all of its opponents thus far. Oklahoma has earned a combined total of 22 team points.
Drake has compiled a 4-0 record on the season, with all of those wins coming at home. The Bulldogs were the Summit League preseason favorite after winning the conference in 2018 and earning an NCAA bid. Drake met Vanderbilt in the NCAA first round, with the Commodores prevailing 4-2.
In their last competition, the Bulldogs beat Purdue 4-2 and Illinois State 5-2 in Des Moines.
Senior Vinny Gillespie leads Drake from the No. 1 line, where he is undefeated (4-0). In doubles, Gillespie and Barny Thorold are 3-1 at the top spot. The duo made a finals appearance at the ITA Central Region Championships and made a run to the round of 16 at the ITA Fall National Championships.
Vanderbilt comes to Norman 2-0 after beating Northwestern (5-2) and Tennessee State (7-0) at home.
The Commodores are coming off a 2018 season that saw them a 19-9 record with a 7-5 mark in SEC play. Vanderbilt advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by virtue of a 4-2 win over Drake in the opening round.
In singles, the Commodores’ Billy Rowe is No. 62 in the latest ITA singles release. Rowe and Cameron Klinger clock in at No. 47 in the latest ITA doubles release. Rowe and Panu Virtananen are No. 50
Scouting Notre Dame
No. 17 Notre Dame is 1-0 on the year after opening the season with a 5-2 win over Kentucky in Lexington. In 2018, the Irish went 19-14 with an 8-4 record in ACC action, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Irish are led by ITA No. 16 Alex Ledbedev, who won the Oracle ITA Fall Nationals consolation title.
Notre Dame has four more players ranked in the ITA’s latest singles release: No. 49 William Howells, No. 63 Richard Ciamarra, No. 86 Grayson Broadus and No. 112 Matt Gamble. In doubles, Ciamarra and Tristan McCormick clock in at No. 11, while Broadus and Gamble are No. 49.
Free pizza and t-shirts will be available to fans on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fans can also pick up a 2019 poster and an OU Tennis Points Card. Fans who attend all five matches listed on card will be entered to win a tennis racket signed by the team at the end of the season.
The Sooners’ match with Drake is set for 11 a.m. CT on Jan. 26. Notre Dame and Vanderbilt will face each other at 2 p.m. following the OU-Drake contest.
The winners of Saturday’s matches will meet in the championship, set for 1 p.m. on Jan. 27. The losers will play the consolation match at 10 a.m.
OU Athletics has introduced a clear bag policy and walk-through metal detectors at all home events this season. More information on the policy and procedures can be found here.
Admission to the Headington Family Tennis Center is always free.