Senior All-American Conor Pollock (pronounced PAUL-luck) delivered two service aces in the deciding match to lead the 15th-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005 with a 4-0 shutout of 24th-ranked Arizona in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship held Saturday before a crowd of 262 fans at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
Pollock, A&M’s top player from San Antonio, Texas, kept the crowd on their toes as he closed out his third match point with an ace down the middle of the court to seal a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 61-ranked Jay Goldman of Arizona at the No. 1 line. Goldman had fought back to two deuce points on Pollock’s serve, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats (18-6) led in only one of six singles matches after dropping the doubles point to the Aggies (17-8). It marked the 11th-ranked opponent to fall victim to the three-time All-Big 12 and No. 17-ranked Pollock this season. He is currently tied for 16th all-time with 62 career singles victories and tied for ninth all-time with 64 career doubles victories in the school record books.
“I just tried to play one point at a time,” said Pollock who also had two additional aces in the second-set finale. “My adrenaline was pumping a little bit with the fans behind me. It was a fitting way for us to enter the Sweet 16. We haven’t been to the Sweet 16 (since 2005), so it’s a first for this team and a first for me in my four years here in Aggieland. We are going to be very dangerous for Ole Miss on Thursday and I’m excited about our chances.”
Junior Marcus Lunt (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomore Alexey Grigorov (Moscow, Russia) set-up Pollock’s match-clincher with straight-set victories at the No. 5 and No. 4 lines respectively. Lunt dispatched Arizona’s Pat Metham, 6-2, 6-3, while Grigorov held off Ravid Hazi, 6-3, 7-5.
The Aggies claimed the doubles point for the third time in four-straight matches with help from the seventh-ranked duo of Conor Pollock and sophomore All-American Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) at No. 1 and Marcus Lunt and sophomore Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.) at No. 2. Krajicek and Pollock improved to 27-8 overall this season with an 8-3 decision over Andres Arango and Ravid Hazi, while Lunt and Spencer defeated Jay Goldman and Pat Metham, 8-4.
“Winning the doubles point put us ahead and took the pressure off of us today,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “We won all of the first sets in singles, so our players got off to a good start and kept the pressure on them (Arizona). They never let them get back into the matches today which I thought was key. We are pleased with the way our guys are playing right now. We’ve been able to be competitive in every single line.
“That’s a key in the NCAA Tournament where you don’t really have any holes and you know that you can win at any line. That has been a big plus for us this year and has allowed us to play against some really good teams and hold our own against them.”
A&M advances to its eighth all-time NCAA Sweet 16 appearance and first since 2005 when the team tournament was last held at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station. The Aggies will face second-seeded and second-ranked Mississippi (26-3) in the round of 16 on Thursday, May 14 at 6 p.m. (CT). A&M and Ole Miss have not met each other since 2003 with the Aggies holding a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Rebels.
“I classify this weekend as taking that next step and that’s what we had to do,” said Denton whose Aggies have now matched seasons in which A&M greats Shuon Madden, Lester Cook, Ryan Newport, Mark Weaver and Grant Connell led their teams to the Sweet 16. “We’ve been playing good, solid tennis and as this tournament goes on, we are going to have to play better. Obviously, the competition is going to step-up from here in terms of level. I’m pleased with the way our guys played today and I know we are going to come out and compete hard. We have great chemistry. I’m really looking forward to Thursday’s tournament and I think it’s going to be exciting.”
NCAA Championships Ticket Information…Fans can purchase tickets by calling the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Center at 1-888-99-AGGIE or by going online at www.12thManFoundation.com. All-session ticket prices (all 12 days of the Championship) range from $103 for Stadium Club seating, $78 for adult general admission and $35 for youth general admission. Individual day tickets range from $12 for single day reserved (Stadium Club seating), $10 single day general admission and $4 single day admission for students and youth.