Cats in midst of pivotal 6-game, 10-day stretch

Scheduled to play six matches in 10 days, the UK men’s tennis team entered a stretch of games Friday that may not only be the busiest time of the season but the most important.

The No. 63 Cats are 7-9 (2-4 Southeastern Conference). With just eight matches left before the SEC Tournament in April, UK must win four of its five remaining SEC matchups to finish with a winning record in the conference and five matches total to ensure a .500 overall record.

Sunday’s 4-3 win over Auburn snapped a four-game losing streak, which freshman Alberto Gonzalez said was important entering into the busy 10-day stretch of games.

“We really needed it, and I’m really happy for all of my team and, you know, we haven’t had like the best season ever,” Gonzalez said. “But little by little I think we’re improving, and I’m really happy to see that not only for me but for everybody.”

Three of the teams UK will face are currently ranked in the top 10. The Cats take on No. 3 Ole Miss on Sunday, No. 3 Georgia on April 4 and No. 5 Tennessee on April 6.

Out of the 24 opponents on UK’s schedule, 19 are ranked and, with the exception of No. 70 South Carolina, all are ranked higher than UK by more than fifteen positions. All twelve SEC teams, including UK, are ranked.

“A lot of teams will schedule easier non-conference matches,” head coach Dennis Emery said. “Our philosophy has always been that we want to schedule as good as we can in our non-conference to prepare for the really tough SEC.”

But UK has had difficulty against ranked opponents this season — the team has only won three of its 12 matchups against ranked teams. UK’s two wins in SEC play came in a 5-2 victory against then-No. 57 South Carolina in February and Sunday’s 4-3 upset of No. 22 Auburn. The Cats’ other ranked win came against then-No. 51 Harvard in February.

“All the matches are really hard,” Gonzalez said. “But the best we can do is just fight as hard as we can and just give our hearts out there and let’s just see if we can do that.”

The Cats return to action against No. 32 Notre Dame today at 2 p.m. in Lexington.