Year in Review: Men's Tennis
Good season leads team into NCAA tournament
After winning its second straight Big 12 Championship a week ago, the No. 14 OU men’s tennis team is gearing up for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
In coach John Roddick’s fourth season, the Sooners (19-6, 6-1 Big 12) have hosted a regional each year he has been under the helm. This year is no different. Roddick’s squad is one of 16 teams hosting the Regional rounds of the tournament. In the Norman Regional, No. 24 Auburn, No. 38 North Carolina State and Wichita State accompany the Sooners.
OU will face Wichita State at 2 p.m. on Friday at the Headington Family Tennis Center. Realistically, the Sooners will handle the Shockers with ease, seeing as they thumped them in the season opener, 7-0, in Norman.
The next test for the Sooners will be against Auburn or North Carolina State. Auburn poses more of a threat since they spent the year playing in the SEC, one of the premier conferences in the nation for tennis. OU has a high chance of winning two duels in its regional and advancing to the Round of 16 on May 16, in Urbana, Ill.
For the singles portion of the NCAA Tournament, senior Costin Paval was selected as an automatic qualifier for the Big 12. He won the Big 12 regular season title at the No. 1 singles position, going undefeated in the regular season of conference play. He will play in the singles portion of the tournament starting on May 22, in Urbana, Ill.
Next year, the Sooners will lose the leadership Paval has shown through his strong play as the team’s anchor at the No. 1 position. No. 21 in singles with a 17-4 overall record this year, he constantly played the other team’s best player and almost always prevailed.
This year, the Sooners had a season with high expectations and most of the time delivered on those expectations. OU always took care of business and won the matches it should have. Five of the team’s six losses came to teams currently ranked inside the ITA top-15, with only one of six losses coming at home.
Although the team will miss the consistent play of Paval, it will fill the void well. OU returns six players that played seven or more singles matches this year.
The only question that lingers is how will the team do at the bottom of the lineup, which was a constant question facing the team this season. A lot of the time this season, the Sooners had to rely on winning the doubles point and then three points out of the top four singles positions; however, near the end of the season when the bottom of the lineup started to show their potential, the team then had immediate control over opponents.
Fortunately, the team’s focus is not on next season yet, with the NCAA Tournament approaching. If the Sooners play the way they finished the season, winning eight of their last nine, then they will make a deep run in the tournament that seems all but impossible.