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Kentucky men’s tennis takes down Dayton in last matches before SEC play

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky fifth year Taha Baadi hits the ball during the Kentucky vs Notre Dame mens tennis match on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 4-0. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky men’s tennis hosted Dayton in a doubleheader on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in which the Wildcats swept the Flyers in both matches, 4-0 and 5-0.  

With the last matches now completed before March and before conference play, let’s look at three key takeaways for the Wildcats before entering the most important stretch of the season.  

GIBSON – Singles play continues to be key for Kentucky 

Kentucky has gone 5-4 in doubles play so far this season and the Wildcats have proven that it may matter.   

Yes, winning the doubles point is the goal in every match, but Kentucky has suggested the ability to overcome the early 0-1 deficit may not be as important as the stat sheet may suggest.  

When the Wildcats took on No. 3 Virgina, they dropped the doubles point, leaving them down one quick with their work cut out for them in singles play.  

The key play of captain Taha Baadi and sophomores Jaden Weekes and Charlelie Cosnet helped push the Wildcats to a 4-3 win and a huge upset against the back-to-back defending champions.  

Cosnet remains undefeated through the first part of the season, heading into SEC play with an impressive 8-0 singles record.  

Two more Wildcats remain undefeated in freshman Eli Stephenson who boasts an 8-0 singles record and Matt Rankin who is 5-0 after missing some time.  

Kentucky’s roster depth has shown how singles play is its strong suit. This team can still be counted on even after dropping the doubles point. 

MCCLELLAND-  Freshman continue to dominate, exceed expectations 

After an impressive SEC performance last year and losing key players, the reigning champions needed some big additions to maintain the Wildcats’ success.

The Cats managed to bring in freshman Jack Loutit, Matt Rankin and Kentucky native Eli Stephenson. 

After the doubleheader against Dayton, these three hold a combined record of 21-3 in singles play and share key wins against nationally ranked opponents with their doubles pairs. 

“We knew that if we weren’t the best in the country, we were one of the best,” Rankin said. “All of us want to achieve championships, SEC titles, and that’s our goal, especially us three.” 

With a clear mindset for Rankin and his fellow underclassman, there is no pressure felt. 

”Last year was something special and we just want to create our own sort of identity,” said Rankin. “We’re gonna try and get another one this year, and I do believe we can do it.”

GIBSON – Dayton doubleheader marked last matches before SEC play  

After a week off from matches due to not qualifying for ITA National Indoors, Kentucky took on Dayton in a much-needed double header for the first outdoor matches of the season. 

The Wildcats used the doubleheader as warm up for SEC play and outdoor tennis.  

“It’s just to get some outdoor practice… to play Dayton a couple of times here will get us ready for the SEC, which will be mainly outdoors,” associate head coach Matthew Gordon said.  

The doubleheader provided an opportunity for the younger guys on the team to get a few last minute reps before March, especially for Rankin who had missed the previous three matches.  

With a stacked SEC schedule ahead of them and with six teams ranked inside the ITA top 25, Kentucky will look to defend its title from just a season ago.  

Kentucky will be back in action on Friday, March 1, in Nashville to take on Vanderbilt in its first SEC match of the season.

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