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March 4, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's tennis team moved up to No. 31 in the ITA Poll, released on Tuesday. It marks the highest ranking in school history. The Nittany Lions are 10-1 entering this weekend as they travel to face No. 50 Princeton on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Penn State rose in the rankings this week despite falling 5-2 against No. 1 Ohio State on Sunday. The Nittany Lions won the doubles point, defeating the Buckeyes' top doubles pair, and got a singles win from freshman Alex Fennell (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.).
At 31, the Penn State squad has now reached the highest ranking in school history.
"With the new rankings out and us being the highest that they've had in Penn State history, that's quite an honor for the current players, the team and all of the players that have come up through the program," said Head Coach Jeff Zinn. "What I told the guys today before practice is that it's a great honor and it's a nice accomplishment, it's one of those goals we've had since the start of the season, but we have a lot of other goals."
The Nittany Lions tied their previous high last week, when they were ranked 34th. They were also ranked 34th on February 26, 2008 and April 7, 2007.
Penn State is ranked fourth-highest among Big Ten teams, with 11 conference members represented in the rankings. Ohio State, Illinois(7) and Northwestern(24) are the only schools ahead of Penn State.
"One big goal is finishing in the top tier in the Big Ten and finishing the highest Penn State's ever been in the Big Ten," said Zinn. "That's our next goal that we're going for. If you look at the strength of the Big Ten, with Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern all in the Top 25, you can see that it's a tough conference again this year."
The Nittany Lions take on ranked opponents in 12 of their final 14 matches. Penn State has two wins over ranked opponents this year, #48 Virginia Tech and #28 VCU.
Penn State begins a tough Spring Break stretch this weekend against Princeton. They will also face #53 South Florida, #60 Central Florida and Southern Miss next week.
"Our next three matches are against three ranked opponents," said Zinn. "We go back to our non-conference schedule with Princeton, South Florida and Central Florida, they're all highly ranked teams. Southern Miss will be a good matchup as well. They're going to be hungry to beat us so they can move up the rankings and we have to be ready."
"Getting to this historical ranking was not done by chance," said Assistant Coach Paul Tobin. "The players worked hard both on the court and in their conditioning sessions. The players should be proud, but there's still much work to be done to get to Athens for the big show."
Russell Bader (Austin, Texas) and Leo Stakhovsky (Kiev, Ukraine) combined on Sunday to knock off Ohio State's top doubles pair, Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka, ranked 3rd in the nation. The Penn State duo won 8-6.
With the win, Bader moved into sole possession of third place on the all-time doubles wins list at Penn State, passing Adam Slagter(2005-09). Bader now has 71 career wins, seven behind Michael James(2004-08) for second place.
The Nittany Lions clinched the doubles point with a hard-fought 8-7(5) win by Michael Reilly (Raleigh, N.C.) and Chris Young (Melbourne, Australia) at No. 2 doubles. Penn State has won the doubles point in 10 of their 11 matches.
Fennell won his eighth-straight match on Sunday with his 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Chris Diaz at No. 3 singles. The freshman is now 9-2 this spring.
Please check back to GoPSUSports.com for more coverage of the Penn State men's tennis teams. Fans can also follow the team on Facebook, Penn State Men's Tennis, and Twitter, @pennstateMTEN.