ATLANTA--The Georgia State men's tennis team hosts its second Sun Belt Conference match of the season against Louisiana Lafayette this Saturday at the Blackburn Tennis Center (3 p.m.).
Saturday's matchup between evenly-matched Georgia State (7-6) and Louisiana Lafayette (7-6) is an important match in eventually determining seeding for the Sun Belt Conference Tennis Championship in April. It is also a key match for both teams as they enter difficult stretches of their respective schedules.
Georgia State is looking to bounce back from a narrow 4-3 loss at No. 67 Georgia Tech last Thursday. GSU's matches last Saturday and Sunday were canceled due to poor weather conditions. The team will have had eight days between matches to prepare for Saturday's contest and a critical stretch of matches next week. The Panthers travel to UAB, nationally ranked in the preseason, next Wednesday for an afternoon contest before hosting a rematch against North Florida on Monday, Mar. 18. The Panthers won a narrow 4-3 contest against the Ospreys at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend on Jan. 26.
Saturday will be the first matchup between the Georgia State and Louisiana Lafayette men's tennis teams in series history.
"Louisiana Lafayette has appeared in the national rankings the past couple of years, they are a well-coached team," GSU first-year head coach Joerg Barthel. "It is important for us to have a winning attitude throughout every spot in our lineup with no let downs on any court. If we can be competitive and maintain a great attitude in all six of our singles spots and three doubles pairs, we will do very well to close this regular season."
Senior Victor Valente looks to continue his recent run of impressive play in both singles and doubles. In just the last two weeks, Valente is 4-0 in singles play with two victories over nationally-ranked opponents and one over a regionally-ranked foe. Most recently, Valente defeated the No. 53-ranked Juan Spir of Georgia Tech in straight sets to give him his third win over a nationally-ranked opponent this season. In the same match he paired with senior Lucas Santa Ana to defeat Spir and Vikram Hundal, the No. 3-ranked doubles team in the nation. It set the school record for the highest-ranked doubles victory and improved the duo to 11-0 this year.
Louisiana Lafayette has faced four nationally-ranked opponents but has yet to defeat one this season. The Ragin' Cajuns are led by junior Rick de Groot at the No. 1 position. De Groot is 7-5 this season playing primarily at the No. 1 singles position. The team also features a pair of brothers, Jake and Jarred Wynan, from Nimmitabel, Australia. Both are ranked in the Southern Regional Singles rankings with Jake Wynan, a sophomore, at No. 12 and Jarred Wynan, a freshman, at No. 19.
Georgia State will look to reverse a recent rash of narrow losses on Saturday. GSU's past four losses, split by a 4-3 win vs. College of Charleston, have all come by two points or less.
"One thing that has hurt us is finishing matches when we have chances," Barthel said, "We are putting ourselves in a spot to finish strong and win against top-ranked teams but have failed to convert on those chances. As a coach, I am glad that we are in the position to win matches against Top 50 teams, but we need to learn to play strong until the end."
Live stats will be provided for the match courtesy of GeorgiaStateSports.com. Visit the men's tennis page for a full recap and results following the match.www.GeorgiaStateSports.com