LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a strong performance in doubles and three impressive singles wins, including a come-from-behind effort from sophomore No. 80 Tom Jomby, the sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team earned its third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 with a 4-0 victory over No. 26 Indiana on Saturday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Ky.
The victory for Kentucky (28-5) gives UK three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances for only the second time in school history. UK advanced to three straight Sweet 16s from 1987-89 before missing postseason play in 1990. The Wildcats will play Friday, May 18 at 4 p.m. ET against the winner of No. 11 Stanford and No. 39 Santa Clara, who will meet in the second round Sunday in Stanford, Calif. UK and Stanford have met once already this season with the Cardinal posting a 4-1 victory over UK in the National Indoor Championships. UK and Santa Clara have never met in school history.
“Well, we’ve only done it (three consecutive Sweet 16s) one other time and I’ve been here 30 years so that kind of says it all,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said on advancing to a third-straight Sweet 16. “It’s really hard to keep it going. We’re going to Athens (Georgia) with a chance. We went to the Elite Eight last year, and we’re going to Athens with a real chance to go further. It’s not going to be easy, but we have the athletic ability, the composure as well as the experience that I think we can do it.”
UK’s win over Indiana is its 13th victory in its last 14 matches, and the eighth consecutive win at home. All told, Kentucky ends the season with an impressive 16-1 record at home and a 62-10 posting at Boone since the start of the 2009 season. The victory moves Kentucky’s record to 23-5 this season against ranked foes, while UK’s 28 wins in 2012 is one off its school record 29 wins set a season ago.
This was the fourth consecutive season that Kentucky has hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, boasting a 7-1 record in those events. Last season, UK took down Cleveland State and Louisville to advance to the Sweet 16 before defeating Florida to punch its ticket to the Elite Eight for only the fourth time in school history. This is Kentucky’s 23rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament, posting a 21-22 overall record in the event.
Kentucky got off to a quick start in the match by taking big leads on courts one and three in doubles action. Senior Eric Quigley and sophomore Panav Jha started the scoring in doubles, taking an 8-5 win over Isade Juneau and Jeremy Langer at No. 1 doubles. With the match on serve at court two between Alex Musialek/Anthony Rossi and Josh MacTaggart/Alastair Barnes, UK would clinch the doubles point at court three. After Alejandro Gomez and Jomby jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the match, the IU duo of Stephen Vogl and Will Kendall bounced back to cut the score to 6-5 before Jomby was able to hold serve and increase the lead to 7-5. IU would then hold serve to cut the lead back to one at 7-6 before Gomez held serve to give Kentucky the 8-6 win and clinch the first point of the match.
UK is now 21-0 this season when it wins the doubles point.
“I thought we came out and probably played our best doubles point of the year,” Emery said. “Certainly the first 20 minutes we played our best doubles point of the year. I thought that really set the tone for the match, even though we kind of went away a little bit there for a while at the No. 3 doubles. They (Indiana) had a break point that could have made it six-all, but I thought our guys did a really good job of righting the ship. Then at No. 1, I thought (Panav) Jha really played well, they’re All-Americans (Eric Quigley and Panav) and seeded at the NCAA Tournament, but I thought it was his (Jha’s) best doubles match by far this year.”
Quigley, ranked third in the nation in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, played one of his best matches of the season Saturday, defeating Juneau in straight sets at the No. 1 singles position. Quigley and Juneau each held serve to start the match before Quigley would win 11 consecutive games to roll to the 6-1, 6-0 victory. The win for Quigley, which took 45 minutes to complete, moved his season record to 49-6 and his career posting to 167-45. UK is now 24-2 this season when Quigley wins a singles match.
“Well, he played fantastic in singles and in doubles,” Emery said about Quigley. “I think that’s a real credit to him. It’s a huge match for us. So, sometimes you have a tendency to think that they may play a little tight. Obviously, he really turned it loose. It wasn’t necessarily a great matchup for him, but he really took care of it. He really took care of business.
“Certainly, he’s our all-time career wins leader. Really, above all of that he’s probably one of the most productive players that we’ve ever had. In singles and doubles, he’s a five-time All-American. There’s really almost no way you can describe what he’s done for us and our program. I think he took it from, we had a good culture, but now we have a championship culture.”
Jomby gave Kentucky a key point at court four when he used a come-from-behind effort to grab the win over Vogl. After dropping the first set 6-4, Jomby turned on in the second set to post a 6-3 win and then fought off a break in the third set to grab a 6-4 win and earn the match. The native of Nantes, France is now 30-11 on the season and 19-6 in dual matches. Kentucky is 19-1 this season when he wins a singles match.
“I thought we got off to a little bit of a slow start in singles,” Emery said. “When we win the doubles point we’re 21-0 this season. So, I think we tried to lay back a little bit and Indiana is just too good to do that. They’re a very good team, and what they do very well is fight hard. I thought it showed a lot of character for our guys to come back. For Jomby to be able to come back from being down a set to go on and win his match (was huge).”
Sophomore Grant Roberts would seal the 4-0 victory for Kentucky with his straight-set win at court six. Roberts jumped out to a big lead in the match at court six over Dimitrije Tasic, before Tasic came back to cut the lead 5-4. The UK sophomore would earn a key break over Tasic to seal the first set 6-4. Roberts then controlled the second set 6-3 to earn the win. The native of Lexington, Ky., is now 16-6 on the season and 14-3 in dual matches.
Three matches remained on court when Kentucky sealed the victory. Rossi, who is ranked 22nd in the nation in singles, had won the first set over Langer 6-4 and was leading 3-1 in the second at court three. Indiana’s MacTaggert had claimed the first over UK’s No. 15 Musialek, while the two were on serve in the second set. Finally, at court five, No. 111 Gomez was in a third set with Will Kendall.