ATLANTA--The No. 59-ranked Georgia State men's tennis team returns home to host Samford at the Sharon Lester Tennis Center in Piedmont Park on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The match is Georgia State's (3-1) first in Atlanta this spring season after hosting a match in Peachtree City last week. The Panthers are returning from the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Charlottesville, Va., where they went 1-1. GSU dropped a narrow 4-2 match against No. 55-ranked Arkansas before winning a 4-3 match vs. No. 63 North Florida last Saturday.
Georgia State, led by first-year head coach Joerg Barthel improved to No. 59 in the latest ITA National Team rankings. It is the fourth time in the last seven seasons GSU has cracked the Top 60 during the season. The Panthers jumped into the Top 60 last season twice at No. 54 (Apr. 14) and No. 55 (Apr. 21).
The stellar play of senior Victor Valente and junior Thomas Cook continues to pace the Panthers to start this season. Valente, the No. 54-ranked player in the ITA National Singles rankings, is 2-1 and already has one victory over a nationally-ranked opponent in singles play. He defeated UNF's Moritz Buerchner (#72) in straight sets at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Cook is 4-0 in singles play to begin the season and has clinched two GSU victories.
Samford enters Sunday's match after winning a 5-2 match vs. Austin Peay last Saturday. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by winning two doubles matches that went to tiebreakers on courts No. 2 and 3. Two freshmen, Fares Kilani and Austin Akers, then gave Samford a commanding 3-0 lead before its No. 1 player, senior Zac Dunkle, clinched the match. Dunkle, from Atlanta, Ga., is one of two Georgia natives on the team with junior Garrison Laduca (Woodstock, Ga.) being the other.
"Samford is a good team that has had a lot of success in recent years," Barthel said, "This will be a strong challenge for our guys as this will be our first outdoor match this season."
Live stats will be available from the Sharon Lester Tennis Center on the men's tennis page on GeorgiaStateSports.com. Fans can also follow the men's tennis team on Twitter at "@GSUMTennis" for live results. Visit the site following the match for a full recap and results.