IU men’s tennis will hit the road for the first time this season Saturday, heading down to the University of Texas at Austin for a four-team single-elimination tournament as part of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend.
The Hoosiers will face the defending national champions.
Second in the preseason rankings, Texas will be the presumptive top team in the country after defeating No. 1 University of Florida last week.
Texas is arguably the most talented roster IU will face all season, with three players ranked in the top 60 in the nation, No. 2 Yuya Ito, No. 13 Christian Sigsgaard and No. 53 Siem Woldeab.
Ito, Sigsgaard and Woldeab also make up three of Texas’ four top 50 doubles pairings, No. 4 Sigsgaard and Ito, No. 23 Sigsgaard and Woldeab and No. 38 Ito and Woldeab. No. 46 Jacob Bullard and Eshan Talluri are the Longhorns’ other ranked pair.
“We know it's a tough task, but we're going to have fun,” IU head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said of the upcoming matches. “We're going to go swing away and see if we can get a few matches.”
IU showed the ability to take down top-ranked talent last week in a 4-3 win against the University of Memphis. Seniors Bennett Crane and Zac Brodney defeated the No. 21 doubles pair Oscar Cutting and David Stevenson 6-4.
Crane and Brodney have shared the court since they were freshman.
“It was pretty natural for us,” Crane said after the match against Memphis. “Hopefully we'll be able to carry that into the next match.”
Crane, the No. 66 singles player in the nation, also has recent success against ranked opponents. Crane defeated then-No. 40 Athell Bennett from Purdue in October en route to a runner-up finish at the ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championship.
The weekend’s matches are part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The event consists of 60 schools at 15 sites taking part in single-elimination tournaments. The winners will earn a spot on Feb. 14-17 at the National Indoor Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Kick-Off is different than most collegiate tournaments. Each of the regional locations were decided at a draft in June. The top 15 teams have home-court advantage for each regional, while the remaining teams chose which regional they will play in.
Joining IU and Texas are Florida State University and Vanderbilt University. IU last faced Vanderbilt in 2018, losing 5-2, and has not faced Texas or Florida State this century.
“We have the philosophy that we want to really be challenged at the highest possible level in our out-of-conference schedule,” Wurtzman said. “We feel that Texas, Vanderbilt, Florida State are among the best in the country and difficult to get on our schedule.”
Florida State finished just outside the top 25 last season at No. 26, and received top 25 votes in the preseason. The Seminoles have one ranked singles player, No. 92 Rana-Roop Singh Bhular.
IU has the longest distance to travel of the teams, approximately 200 miles further than both Florida State and Vanderbilt.
All four teams are undefeated heading into the weekend, but only one will still have a spotless record and a ticket to Madison at the start of next week.
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