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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky Kernel

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No. 1 Kentucky men’s tennis takes home SEC Championship title

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky senior Joshua Lapadat celebrates 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 claimed its second consecutive SEC Championship, defeating the No. 11 seed South Carolina Gamecocks in a 4-2 matchup on Sunday, April 21. 

The Wildcats earned the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament, earning a first round bye. 

Their road to the championship game featured two 4-0 sweeps in the second and third round, beating No. 9 Arkansas on Friday and No. 13 seed LSU on Saturday.

Luck was on the Cats’ side for the tournament, avoiding two premier matchups against No. 4 Auburn in the semifinals, and No. 2 Tennessee in the championship match due to upsets. 

South Carolina, who hosted Kentucky on April 5, lost 4-3, but earned their last two points after the match was clinched.

Kentucky served as the heavy favorite going into the match.

To start doubles play, Taha Baadi and Jack Loutit won their sixth consecutive match, getting the Cats off to a hot start.

However, Jaden Weekes and Eli Stephenson, who have been inconsistent all season with an 8-7 record together, lost on court three.

After trailing 5-4, senior duo Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer fought back valiantly, forcing a tiebreaker and winning 7-6 to earn the doubles point. 

This pair will be a heavy force in the national tournament, ranking No. 7 in the country and holding a 15-5 record, with seven wins against nationally ranked opponents. 

In singles play, Lapadat, on court two, served as the only winning point on the top courts. 

Baadi on court one and Weekes on court three were both beaten in straight sets, giving South Carolina a 2-1 lead in the match. 

In the meantime, Charlelie Cosnet, featured as the Cats’ best singles player at 19-2, tied the match back up after a 7-5, 6-3 win on court four. 

Shortly after, Lapadat finished on court two, going undefeated in the SEC Tournament and coming up big for the Wildcats with a straight set win. 

With a 3-2 lead, the Cats had to depend on two freshmen, Loutit and Stephenson, in their biggest moment of their collegiate careers thus far.

Loutit, who lost his first set 6-3, fought back and forced a third set, buying time for Stephenson after he won a tie breaking first set.

It was match point on court six, with Stephenson holding a 5-3 lead. The Kentucky native hit a breaking ball right past his opponent.

He dropped his racket in celebration and was instantly greeted by a swarm of Wildcats.

Kentucky men’s tennis had secured its title as the SEC champion. 

Cosnet was named the SEC Tournament MVP and Mercer was selected to the All-Tournament Team. 

After the Tennessee match on April 14th, Loutit had higher expectations for the Wildcats, even before the SEC Tournament began.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” Loutit said. ”Nobody can tell me we can’t be national champions.”

With a clear goal in mind, the Cats will hear their name called on Monday, April 29, at the NCAA selection show, seeing who stands in the way of their championship state of mind.

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