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The Battalion

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No. 12 A&M upsets No. 8 Tennessee for second in SEC standings

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Freshman Tiago Pires returns the ball at Texas A&M’s match against Pepperdine on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, at the Mitchell Tennis Center. (© Connor May/The Battalion)

While basketball, baseball and softball have demanded plenty of attention across Texas A&M’s campus this spring, the Aggies’ No. 12 men’s tennis team is offering plenty of reasons to catch the eyes of fans.

The latest came in the form of a 5-2 win over No. 8 Tennessee on Friday, March 15 at the Mitchell Tennis Center, where A&M has built a 9-1 record this season. That lone defeat came to No. 1 Ohio State only two days ago.

Falling to the Buckeyes didn’t slow down the Aggies’ momentum in conference play, with the team picking up its fourth consecutive SEC victory against the Volunteers. The streak has kept the Maroon and White battle-tested, featuring wins over No. 16 South Carolina and No. 22 Mississippi State.

“I thought it was a hard-fought win,” coach Steve Denton said. “I was especially pleased with the bounce back after a very tough loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night.”

No. 64 junior JC Roddick represents a significant piece of A&M’s streak, with his 6-1, 7-5 defeat of No. 23 junior Shunsuke Mitsui representing his fifth win in a row and sixth over a ranked opponent this season. He entered the match as the reigning SEC Player of the Week and picked up A&M’s only point versus Ohio State.

Alongside junior Luke Casper, Roddick started the match with a 6-2 doubles loss to Mitsui and freshman Filip Pieczonka, the country’s No. 20 duo. Freshman Tiago Pires and graduate Kenner Taylor responded by taking down freshman Filip Apltauer and graduate Younes Lalami, 7-5.

The crucial doubles point was clinched by the Aggies with No. 58 junior Giulio Perego and sophomore Togan Tokac mounting a major comeback against the fourth-ranked tandem of graduate Angel Diaz and senior Johannus Monday. Perego and Tokac found themselves staring at defeat, trailing 5-2, before storming back for a 7-5 triumph that kept them a perfect 6-0 versus ranked duos.

“We did a good job to continue fighting after a slow start in the doubles,” Denton said. “Coming back at No. 1 doubles from down 5-2 in the set, I thought it was a big momentum change in the match.”

Singles play mimicked the back-and-forth nature of doubles, as Roddick started on a high note by taking down Mitsui. Junior Chris Li picked up Tennessee’s first point with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 takedown of No. 118 Tokac, but No. 116 Perego kept the Volunteers from evening the score as he beat Diaz, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Tennessee stayed in the game behind No. 6 Monday’s defeat of No. 36 Perot, 7-6 (12-10), 6-2, but Pires iced the Friday victory by outlasting No. 94 Pieczonka, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Casper added a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over Apltauer for good measure.

The upset boosts the Aggies to second in the SEC standings behind No. 6 Kentucky. A&M’s marathon of a week continues with a Sunday, March 17 doubleheader against Georgia at 1 p.m. and UT-Arlington at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Tennis Center.

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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