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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

No. 8 A&M faces pair of top 10 SEC foes

Photo by Photo by Paul Burke

Texas A&M men’s tennis team concluded their team season and will now focus on individual play.

With the SEC Tournament creeping up slowly, No. 8 Texas A&M men’s tennis is preparing for back-to-back ranked road opponents.
Three matches remain for the Aggies in the regular season as the team sits at eighth in the nation with a record of 14-5. This weekend, they will travel to Athens, Ga., to face No. 10 Georgia on Friday, April 9, at 4 p.m., followed by a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to face No. 5 Tennessee. This tough stretch on the road could provide much-needed confidence for the postseason.
“It’s a really exciting time to test yourself,” said A&M coach Steve Denton on playing road matches. “I think you have to typically be 10 to 20 percent better than your opponent on the road in order to be victorious. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a time for the guys to band together and face some adversity.”
The Aggies have not been short on adversity, having had one of the toughest schedules of any team in the nation. The SEC currently has nine of the top 25 teams, making it one of the toughest conferences in college tennis. A&M even scheduled difficult out-of-conference matches.
Eleven of the 17 different teams the Aggies have played this season have been ranked in the top 25. They are 9-4 against ranked competition, having played both Ole Miss and Baylor twice. Against teams in the top 10, like upcoming opponents Georgia and Tennessee, A&M is 2-2. All this high-level competition helps prepare the team for the postseason, senior Valentin Vacherot said.
“By coming to A&M, you’re always going to play hard matches,” said Vacherot, who is ranked No. 5 in the nation. “It gets us ready for the end of the season, for the national championship and the SEC Tournament. We schedule all those big matches against Baylor, Texas [and] TCU that are all top 10, which makes us be ready at the end when it’s going to matter the most.”
Depth has been a valuable aspect to A&M’s season so far. The Aggies currently have the most ranked singles players in the nation at six individuals; however, the team’s value goes beyond the rankings. With key seniors No. 2 Hady Habib and No. 85 Barnaby Smith each having missed significant time, other Aggies have been forced to step up.
“We have a lot of depth, and we’ve had quite a few injuries with different players,” Denton said. “Maybe these younger players would not have gotten this type of significant playing time, but the fact is they have. As a result, I think our team is better as we prepare for postseason.”
The Aggies will need contributions from both their veterans and their underclassmen to find themselves in the win column this weekend as they face two top-10 SEC opponents. The team currently sits third in the SEC with an in-conference record of 6-3. The results of the upcoming matches can have major implications since the top four teams in the conference earn a first-round bye.
“We’ve got to take care of business these next three matches,” Vacherot said. “It’s going to be three hard ones, and it’s going to be important for the seeding for the SEC Tournament. The SEC Tournament is our second biggest objective after the NCAA Championship. We’re just trying to build up confidence and be ready out there.
“My biggest goal is to finish out strong, finish on a good note and not have any regrets.”

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