The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Men’s tennis looks for another home victory

There has been no place like home for the SMU men’s tennis team in the last month, and, fortunately for the Mustangs, home is also where they will begin their postseason journey.

SMU (19-7) will face Memphis today at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Championships at the brand-new Turpin Tennis Stadium, which finished construction in March and is located on the SMU campus. The Mustangs, the No. 3 seed in this weekend’s tournament, walloped the Tigers, 6-1, at the new facility on March 29. That started the team’s six-match home winning streak, which it carries into today’s showdown.

“Each match we keep playing better and better,” said head coach Carl Neufeld, who has said throughout the season that this year’s squad could be the best in his 15-year tenure here.

That is saying quite a bit, considering Neufeld’s impressive resume. He has won three conference titles at SMU and guided the Mustangs to 10 postseason berths in the last 11 years. Now his team has the facilities to match the program’s lofty reputation.

“Playing in a new facility is obviously a very special opportunity,” said Neufeld. “It’s a special opportunity for the players, and I think they recognize that. The stadium is so nice that it makes it more exciting to play tennis here.”

That excitement has been evident in the Mustangs’ last six home matches, during which they have outscored their opponents 36-2. SMU was 10-1 at its old home courts, Dallas’ Bent Tree Country Club, before moving into the new facility in late March. But the way the team has dominated late in the season has been staggering. SMU has defeated two ranked teams in the six-game span (No. 22 Rice and No. 36 Texas Christian) and boasts players who are competing at their highest level so far this season.

Sophomore Robin Fahgen – standing at only 5-feet-11-inches – makes up for his short stature with agility and quickness, frustrating opponents on his way to 11 straight victories. Senior Alex Skrpko has thumped his last 12 opponents in the No. 3 singles spot.

David Kuczer, competing at No. 1 singles, dropped his last match to TCU’s Cosmin Cotet but still holds a 16-5 overall record this season. Kuczer and his partner Fahgen have been even more impressive at No. 1 doubles, holding a 14-7 record against stiff competition.

They have helped transform a suspect doubles squad early this spring into a consistent winner. SMU has lost only one doubles point since the second week in March.

“Putting guys together with the right player [in doubles] isn’t always simple,” said Neufeld. “I think that we’re not as good as we can be, but we’re getting better and better.”

Neufeld’s players will be thankful that they won’t have to rise early for their quarterfinal match today. Central Florida and Alabama-Birmingham will be warming up this morning as the sun rises and will open the tournament at 8 a.m.

In addition, Neufeld and his players hope that the rain clouds that passed over Dallas on Thursday afternoon will be well out of town when the Mustangs take the court. Precipitation may wreak havoc in Friday morning’s matches, but the clouds are expected to taper and the temperature will climb into the lower 70s by mid-afternoon.

Although the weather isn’t guaranteed to cooperate Friday, the courts looked tournament-ready on Thursday afternoon, as the tournament’s top seed, Tulsa, took the courts for its practice round. The banners have been hung on the bleachers, and the courts have been prepared for the seven matches that will take place throughout the weekend.

“The fact that we’re hosting is really exciting,” said Neufeld. “The boys are excited to play in front of their friends and fans.”

Tulsa will face No. 8 seed Southern Miss at 11 a.m., and No. 2 seed Rice will square off against No. 7 seed East Carolina at 5 p.m. The semifinals will take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday. The championship is slated for noon on Sunday.

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