Nashville, Tenn.—The Georgia State men’s tennis team, the winner of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship, takes on No. 26-ranked Illinois at 11 a.m. CT on Friday to begin play at the NCAA Tournament Regional in Nashville, Tenn.
The No. 64-ranked Panthers (15-10) and Fighting Illini will play at the Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Tennis Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. GSU and Illinois will be meeting for the first time in series history at the NCAA Tournament Regional.
This is the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance all-time for the Georgia State men’s tennis program. GSU’s last appearance came in 2007 after it won the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Panthers fell to No. 29-ranked Auburn in the first round that season.
Georgia State, led by first-year head coach Joerg Barthel, enters the NCAA Tournament Regional riding a four-match winning streak. The team earned an automatic qualifier for the tournament after winning the Sun Belt Conference Championship on Apr. 20, defeating No. 49-ranked MTSU. The Panthers are the No. 3 seed, along with host and top-seeded Vanderbilt and fourth-seeded ETSU.
Seniors Lucas Santa Ana and Victor Valente made school history last week after being selected to the 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship. The senior duo is the first doubles team in school history to earn an at-large bid. Valente will also make his first career appearance, and the school’s first appearance since 2007, in the NCAA Singles Championship this year. On the season, Santa Ana and Valente are a remarkable 14-2 in doubles play with a win against the No. 3-ranked doubles team in the nation. Valente owns a stellar 19-4 record in singles play with a 7-2 mark against nationally-ranked singles opponents.
The Fighting Illini hail from the Big 10 Conference and enter Friday’s match with a 16-10 overall record and four wins vs. nationally-ranked opponents. Illinois’ top wins this season include a 4-3 win vs. No. 5-ranked Duke, a 4-3 win vs. No. 7-ranked Kentucky, a 5-2 win vs. No. 20-ranked Northwestern and a 7-0 win vs. No. 50-ranked Nebraska. Illinois is making their 18th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and hosts this year’s championship in Urbana, Ill., at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
Leading Illinois at the No. 1 position is freshman Jared Hiltzik, the Big 10 Conference Freshman of the Year honoree and an at-large selection for the 2013 NCAA Singles Championship. Hiltzik is ranked No. 32 in the nation and owns a 17-4 record this year, including a 3-3 mark against nationally-ranked singles opponents. The Fighting Illini’s top doubles tandem of sophomores Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski are 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship selections and are 10-3 this season with three wins vs. nationally-ranked doubles tandems.
Tickets for each day at the Nashville regional will be $5 general admission and $3 for students. Tickets will only be sold at the gate each day and must be paid in cash only. Friday’s ticket is valid for both first round matches. Parking on Friday is available in the medical center lots Nos. 74 and 75, which are accessible from Natchez Trace. On Saturday, fans are encouraged to use the 25th Ave Garage, located directly to the east of the Currey Tennis Center. Parking is free on both days.
Fans looking to follow Friday’s match can do so with live stats courtesy of vucommodores.com. For more information on the tournament, click here to go to tournament central. Fans can get more information on the GSU men’s tennis team’s 2013 season and postseason notes by checking the NCAA Championship Regional Guide by clicking here.