Arturs Kazijevs and Mischa Nowicki
April 16, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (SMU) - The SMU Mustangs will play the UCF Knights in the first round of the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championships on Friday at 3 p.m. at the Racquet Club of Memphis. The seven schools sponsoring men’s tennis in the conference will play a total of six matches between Friday and Sunday to determine the league champion. The winner of the matchup between the fifth-seeded Mustangs and fourth-seeded Knights will play top seed Memphis in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Memphis has a bye to the semifinals by finishing first in the league during the regular season. The other half of the bracket includes No. 2 USF versus No. 7 Connecticut and No. 3 Louisville against No. 6 Temple. The winners of those two matches will play their semifinal match at 11 a.m. on Saturday, and the championship will be played at noon on Sunday.
UCF is ranked 62nd nationally with a 12-8 record this season, including a 2-1 record on neutral courts. Francesc Aulina has the Knights’ top singles mark with a 14-5 record in dual matches. Aulina is 9-1 at No. 3 singles and is 8-2 in his last 10 matches. Inaki Espindola is 13-6 and 8-2 at No. 5 singles. In doubles, UCF has had its most success at No. 2 and 3, holding 11-4 and 11-5 records at those positions respectively. Espindola and Chris Barrus are 10-4 as a pair with a 7-3 record in their last 10. UCF opened the spring with a 6-1 record, but lost four straight from March 21-30.
SMU and UCF have met once, with the Mustangs taking a 4-2 victory in the Conference USA Championships on April 17, 2009.
Memphis is ranked 21st in the nation and earned the top seed in the conference tournament with a 13-4 record this spring. The Tigers have beaten three top-25 teams this season - No. 18 South Carolina (4-2) on Jan. 25, No. 22 Harvard (4-3) on Feb. 23 and No. 25 USF (4-3) on Sunday. Junior Connor Glennon , who is ranked 62nd in the nation, leads Memphis in singles with a 10-5 record in dual matches and nine wins at the No. 1 position. Joe Salisbury leads the Tigers with 13 wins this spring, boasting a 12-3 mark at No. 2 singles. Salisbury and David O’Hare have combined to be the nation’s eighth-ranked doubles pair, holding a 10-2 record in dual matches and a 22-7 mark for the 2013-14 campaign. The duo has won nine straight matches and are 7-3 against ranked foes.
SMU holds a 5-1 all-time versus Memphis, but the Tigers took the most recent meeting in the series with a 5-2 win on April 1, 2012. SMU won five straight in the series from 2006-11, and all six matches in the series have been played in Dallas. SMU senior and Memphis junior Connor Glennon met in the match in 2012, with Glennon taking a 6-1; 6-4, victory at No. 4 singles.
SMU IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
The Mustangs have won at least one game in a conference tournament in 15 of the last 16 seasons, including a first round victory over Old Dominion in the 2013 Conference USA Championships a year ago. SMU has 13 conference championships in its history, with its most recent coming in 2004.
On the play of the seniors, Alex Sanders and Mischa Nowicki... “I can’t say enough about them. They’re both playing their best tennis. At SMU, that’s our goal to have every senior play his best in their last season. Mischa and Alex have really stepped it up in the last month, in both singles and doubles. I’m both excited and proud about that.”
KAZIJEVS IN THE RANKINGS
Junior Arturs Kazijevs is now 115th in the nation in the latest ITA singles rankings. Kazijevs is 8-8 in the spring and 16-12 overall, including four wins over ranked opponents. Kazijevs opened the season ranked 73rd nationally.
SMU’s two seniors - Alex Sanders and Mischa Nowicki, have played strong tennis as of late, and earned the praise of head coach Carl Neufeld. “Our seniors are leading the way for us,” Neufeld said after SMU’s tight 4-3 loss to No. 19 Columbia on March 18. Sanders is tied for the Mustangs’ lead with 12 wins in dual matches, collecting five wins at both No. 2 and No. 3 singles. Sanders won two matches at No. 1 from March 7-10 against Nicholls State and Cleveland State, and is 6-2 in his last eight decisions. Nowicki has seven wins in dual matches, including at the No. 2 position versus No. 19 Columbia. Nowicki now has 43 wins in his career at SMU.
ACES IN PAIRS
The Mustangs boast a 36-28 overall record in doubles for the 2013-14 season, led by the tandem of Nate Lammons and Alex Sanders, who are 18-7 overall and 8-4 in the spring. The duo won the doubles title at the Jack Kramer Club Invite in the fall, and have won four straight decisions this spring. Arturs Kazijevs and Mischa Nowicki are 5-5 in dual matches at the No. 1 position, while Nowicki and Arkidjas Slobodkins (2-3) won their first two matches at No. 1 as a duo.
SUCCESS AT SIX
The SMU Mustangs hold a 13-6 (.684) record in No. 6 singles, their top mark for any singles spot. Nate Lammons is 5-2 when playing at six, while freshmen Juliio Olaya (4-0) and Arkidjas Slobodkins (4-2) have also garnered strong results at the position. Lammons also played solid tennis at No. 6 last season, going 9-5 in 2013 to total a 13-6 record over his two seasons.
ROAD FROM RIGA
SMU has two players that hail from Riga, Latvia - junior Arturs Kazijevs and freshman Arkidjas Slobodkins. Kazijevs is ranked 115th nationally in singles and holds a 8-8 record, playing 15 matches at the No. 1 spot. Slobodkins began his collegiate career in January, and won six of his first seven matches. With his win over Rice’s Henrik Munch on Sunday, Slobodkins now has 10 wins this spring, the third-highest total on the team. Last season, Kazijevs earned First Team All-Conference USA honors and ended the 2012-13 season ranked 108th in the nation.