Charlottesville, Va.--The No. 62-ranked Georgia State men's tennis team grabbed an early lead by taking the doubles point but slipped in singles play in a 4-2 defeat vs. No. 55-ranked Arkansas in the first round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend on Friday.
Georgia State (2-1) began the match with strong doubles play on all courts. The Panthers dropped the No.3 doubles match but rallied to tie the doubles point when seniors Victor Valente and Lucas Santa Ana won an 8-3 match at the No. 2 position. Junior Thomas Cook and freshman Paul Schuette paired at the No. 1 position for the first time this season and notched an 8-5 victory against Mike Nott and Manfred Jeske. That win clinched the doubles point for GSU.
"We played outstanding doubles today, we wanted to be aggressive and we were," first-year head coach Joerg Barthel said. "It's encouraging because we've been working on doubles in practice and I saw a lot of improvement today."
Georgia State began singles play with promise as all matches were deadlocked to begin with. The Panthers had several opportunities on all courts to take strangleholds of singles matches but could not take advantage of those opportunities.
With GSU down 3-1 in the team score and needing three singles victories to stay in the match, junior Thomas Cook rallied for a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win at No. 2 singles. It is his third straight victory to open the season. His win set up an opportunity for Valente and Santa Ana to lead GSU to a come-from-behind win if they rallied in their matches.
Valente, the No. 55-ranked player in the ITA National Singles rankings, took his first set 6-4 but fell in the second set 3-6. He then trailed 5-3 in the third set but rallied to tie the score at 5-5. At the same time Santa Ana was battling to his second tiebreaker in as many sets and was trailing by a set. Santa Ana could not muster up a comeback and fell 7-6, 7-6 at No. 4 singles.
"I think we played a good match and we're doing the right things that we can control," Barthel said, "The only difference between us and them was that they finished sets in singles better than us. All of the matches were very competitive and to see we are this close to a good SEC team shows me that we are on the right track to where we need to be."
Georgia State now prepares for a match against No. 63 North Florida tomorrow afternoon. The Panthers and Ospreys will be meeting for the first of two matches scheduled for this season. Visit the men's tennis page on GeorgiaStateSports.com for a full recap of GSU's final match at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend following the match.