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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M meets No. 15 Tide

The No. 11 Texas A&M men’s tennis team has faced a constant barrage of challenges to start the year from the nation’s elite teams, including 10 of the nation’s top 50.
The story coming out of Tuscaloosa, Ala. hasn’t been much different. The No. 15 Alabama Crimson Tide have seen their share of tough competition during the first few months of the 2003 season as well. The Crimson Tide (13-4) has come up against 10 nationally-ranked opponents in their first 17 matches, while competing in a very competitive Southeastern Conference.
“We’ve had a good year,” said Alabama Head Coach Billy Pate. “But the recent SEC matches are disappointing because those are so important. This league is so difficult, every team is capable of beating everyone else.”
The two teams will meet this Saturday at the A&M Tennis Center in a match that is sure to have poll implications. The match is only the fifth meeting between the two clubs, with the first four going to A&M. Their most recent meeting came during the 2000 season when the Aggies downed the Crimson Tide in College Station 6-1.
This year, the Aggies boast an eight match win streak, seven of which have come at the Tennis Center on their current homestand. During that stretch, the Aggies made the most of their home court advantage, outscoring their opponents by a collective score of 45-3.
“The home court in any sport is extremely important to protect,” said A&M Head Coach Tim Cass. “We have a good home schedule and it is fun for us to play at home, it is something that they take great pride in. We appreciate these people, and feel we owe it to them to play with a certain intensity.”
For the Crimson Tide things haven’t been going quite so well lately. The Tide started the season in impressive fashion, winning their first 11 matches, while climbing the national polls. Alabama topped out at No. 11 just before the end of February. Since then, things have slipped a bit as the men hit conference play. The Tide have dropped four of their first six conference matches, most recently losing a close match at home against No. 6 Ole Miss, a team the Aggies edged out on February 20. Despite the loss, Alabama is still held in high regard in the national polls. The losses initially dropped the Crimson Tide down as far as No.19, but that was before the polls switched from a committee to the computer formula based system which boosted the club back to No.15 heading into Saturday.
“Because of our challenging SEC and non-conference schedule we were able to move up. The only ranking that matters is the final one,” Pate said.
The match comes at an excellent time for the Aggies, who have finally answered many of their lingering questions. After a bit of experimenting, Cass and the squad finally seem to have found a combination that works for them on the doubles point, moving senior Ryan Newport and sophomore Lester Cook back together at one, and moving sophomore Ante Matijevic to court three with junior Khaled El Dorry.
The Aggies put their 12 match home win streak on the line Saturday at the Tennis Center beginning at 6 p.m.

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