The Alabama men’s tennis team was destined to play Texas A&M.
The Crimson Tide came oh-so-close to facing the league regular-season champion Aggies in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa a couple of weeks ago, but Alabama lost a close match to Tennessee.
Now the teams will play in the NCAA Championships, where 42nd-ranked Alabama will try to keep its streak of upsets rolling against fifth-seeded A&M in the round of 16 on Friday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“It’s kind of ironic that we’re going to have that opportunity now,” UA coach George Husack said. “I don’t know, maybe this is our time now to play them verses before in SECs.”
Alabama lost 5-2 to the Aggies in College Station, Texas, in March, but that was before the Crimson Tide went on a roll in the postseason. Alabama defeated Auburn and 25th-ranked Kentucky in the SEC Tournament before the narrow loss to 19th-ranked Tennessee, then upset its way through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament by knocking off 23rd-ranked Tulane and 11th-ranked Florida State.
Alabama is ranked 42nd, but playing like a contender.
“I think the stats say we have a 5 percent chance, but that doesn’t really matter to me,” sophomore Edson Ortiz said. “We had 16 percent and 12 percent against Tulane and Florida State and we beat them, so I think we’re much stronger than what the stats say.”
Alabama hasn’t lost the doubles point in postseason play, starting each match with a 1-0 lead.
“It’s certainly a momentum-booster,” Husack said. “We go into the doubles point expecting to win it because we feel really good about it. That’s a big help fur us.”
The A&M singles lineup includes fifth-ranked Patrick Kypson and 12th-ranked Arthur Rinderkneck, as well as two others ranked in the top 75.
“We’ve got to win some close sets,” Husack said. “We did that against Kentucky, Tulane, Florida State. We have to beat them with our wills more than anything.
“We have talent, but we pride ourselves on outworking people. That’s what got us to this point.
“Bottom line is we are way better even than we were at SECs. This past weekend (at the regional at FSU) was a massive confidence-booster. They’re playing at the level that they’re probably dreamed about, so that’s a good thing.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.