The University of Kentucky men’s tennis team was undefeated at home this season, a record that bodes well for the Wildcats as they get set to host first- and second-round matches in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
Kentucky, 18-7 overall and 15-0 at home this season, received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and was installed as the No. 14 overall seed on Monday night.
Florida, from the Southeastern Conference, is the No. 1 overall seed in the 64-team tournament. Tennessee, which beat Florida to win the SEC Tournament last week, is the No. 3 seed. Other SEC teams in the field are No. 8 seed Texas A&M, No. 11 Georgia, No. 13 South Carolina, No. 15 Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State.
Due to the health and safety protocols surrounding the pandemic, first- and second-round sites were selected from a group of 20 predetermined sites rather than awarded to strictly the top-seeded teams. Seed was factored into the final determination of the sites, and matchups between conference opponents were avoided in the first two rounds of the championship.
On Friday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Arizona (19-7) will face Michigan (15-4) at 10 a.m. Kentucky will take on Cleveland State (18-4) at 1 p.m.
The winners of Friday’s matches will meet in the second round on Saturday at 1 p.m.
One winner from each of the 16 on-campus sites around the country will advance to the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., where the remaining teams will compete for the national title over a six-day span.
Kentucky was initially supposed to host Horizon League champion Cleveland State last February during the regular season, but the match was canceled due to health and safety protocols. The Wildcats swept the Vikings in back-to-back-to-back NCAA Tournament matchups in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Kentucky’s latest berth marks the 30th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
In the most recent ITA computer rankings, Kentucky is No. 15, Arizona No. 19 and Michigan No. 44.
Five Wildcats were included in the latest singles rankings. Liam Draxl is No. 1 and Gabriel Diallo is No. 12. Both players were named to the All-Southeastern Conference First Team. Millen Hurrion is No. 32, Cesar Bourgois is No. 99 and Joshua Lapadat is No. 109. Kentucky’s doubles team of Bourgois and Diallo is No. 7.
The men’s individual championships take place May 23-28.
Outside of the seeded teams from the Southeastern Conference, here are the remainder of the top 16 in the NCAA field: No. 2 Baylor, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Virginia, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 7 TCU, No. 9 UCF, No. 10 Wake Forest, No. 12 Southern California and. No. 16 Illinois.
UK women headed west
The Kentucky women’s tennis team earned its seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance Monday night and will open play this weekend in the University of California Regional at Berkeley, Calif.
Kentucky (15-8) takes on Syracuse (8-11) on Friday at 1 p.m. EDT. California (17-6), the No. 16 overall seed in the 64-team field, faces San Jose State (15-1) at 4 p.m. The winners meet Saturday at 4 p.m. for a berth in the final 16.
Coach Carlos Drada will be leading his 11th team into NCAA play in his 16 seasons at UK. Kentucky (15-8 overall, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) received an at-large bid into the NCAA field after advancing to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament and losing to eventual champion Georgia.
Syracuse (8-11) earned an at-large bid out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Joining California as top-16 NCAA seeds are No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 6 North Carolina State, No. 7 Florida State, No. 8 Baylor, No. 9 UCF, No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 11 Florida, No. 12 LSU, No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Virginia and No. 15 Ohio State.
Joining Kentucky, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida and LSU in the field from the SEC are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Kentucky enters the tournament with the nation’s No. 1 doubles team in the most recent ITA computer rankings. Akvilė Paražinskaitė and Fiona Arrese earned All-SEC First Team honors in going 20-2 this season.
Paražinskaitė, a graduate student from Vilnius, Lithuania, is UK’s highest ranked singles player at No. 29 in the nation after going 16-6.
Lesede Jacobs (11-7) is No. 99.
As a team, Kentucky is ranked No. 26. Syracuse is No. 45. California is No. 25.