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You’d have to forgive the UK tennis team if its players were feeling a little deja vu Saturday.
For the third consecutive season, the Wildcats advanced from their own regional to the Sweet 16 of NCAA tournament, this time with a 4-0 win versus Indiana.
“Sweet 16 in the NCAAs is not easy,” said senior Eric Quigley. “To do it three years in a row, that’s pretty impressive.”
“We’ve only done it one other time, and I’ve been here 30 years,” said UK head coach Dennis Emery. “That kind of says it.”
UK jumped out to a quick advantage early in its match versus Indiana with an 8-3 win in No. 1 doubles from Quigley and sophomore Panav Jha. After jumping out to a big lead, UK’s No. 3 doubles team of sophomore Tom Jomby and sophomore Alejandro Gomez held off an Indiana rally for an 8-6 win to give the Wildcats the doubles point.
“I thought we came out and probably played our best doubles point of the year,” Emery said. “Certainly the first 20 minutes, we played out best doubles point of the year. I thought that really set the tone for the match.”
Quigley, UK’s all-time wins leader, wasted no time in winning his singles match 6-1, 6-0 to give UK its second point. Jomby then earned a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win for the third point, and sophomore Grant Roberts closed out the win minutes later with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
“(Quigley) played fantastic in singles and in doubles,” Emery said. “I think that’s a real credit to him.”
“Somedays you feel like you can’t miss,” Quigley said. “Today was one of those days. I just hope I can keep it going confidence wise and play wise.”
With the win, the No. 6 seed Wildcats will face the winner of No. 11 seed Stanford and Santa Clara in the Sweet Sixteen in Athens, Ga., on May 18.
The script is playing out similarly for UK as in recent seasons, but this year the Wildcats hope to write a different ending.
“We went to the Elite Eight last year, and we’re going to Athens with a real chance to go further,” Emery said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we have the athletic ability, the composure as well as the experience that I think we can do it.”
Quigley echoed those sentiments.
“It’s really an honor to get to the Sweet 16, but we’re not done,” Quigley said. “We really want to keep going and improve on what we did last year. We don’t want to end anytime soon.
“Obviously our goal is to win it all, so anything less, we’ll be kind of a little disappointed.”