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Kentucky favored in NCAA tennis regional

For Cedric Kauffmann, this weekend is a first.

For his Kentucky men's tennis team, it's becoming old hat.

The Wildcats and their first-year head coach Kauffmann play host to first- and second-round matches in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 8 overall NCAA seed Wildcats are favored to secure their fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16.

"Obviously its an exciting time to be playing," said Kauffmann, a former UK player and assistant coach who took over the top job when Dennis Emery retired last summer after 30 years guiding the program. "Our focus all season has been playing our best tennis for this tournament and we are excited with the opportunity to start things off on our home courts here in Lexington. I think our boys are battle-tested, and we are ready for this moment."

Kentucky went 20-11 this season with five wins over top-10 teams.

This weekend marks Kentucky's 24th all-time appearance in the tournament and its 19th in the past 20 years. It is the fifth straight year that UK's Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center was selected as a host site for the opening two rounds.

Kentucky is the top seed in the Lexington Regional, followed by No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Virginia Tech and No. 4 Western Michigan.

The winner of Saturday's second-round match advances to the Sweet 16 in Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

Kentucky's first-round opponent, Western Michigan (19-9), went 3-2 in the Mid-American Conference and won the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 4-3 win over Northern Illinois.

Michigan (16-9) went 9-2 in Big Ten play this season and is ranked No. 22 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

Virginia Tech (15-9) went 6-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and is ranked No. 41.

Of the top 16 teams hosting NCAA regionals, Kentucky has beaten six this season. The Cats played 21 matches against teams ranked in the nation's top 30, with all their losses coming against that group.

The Wildcats are led in singles by No. 4 national seed and fifth-ranked Anthony Rossi (22-5).

Rossi and teammate Tom Jomby were named to the All-Southeastern Conference first team.

Kentucky is one of 12 SEC teams in the 64-team NCAA field, joining No. 3 overall seed Georgia, No. 6 Mississippi, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 10 Mississippi State, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 15 Florida and No. 16 Vanderbilt in addition to Alabama, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina.

NCAA regional

Friday's first round

Noon — No. 2 seed Michigan (16-9) vs. No. 3 seed Virginia Tech (15-9)

3 p.m. — No. 1 seed Kentucky (20-11) vs. No. 4 seed Western Michigan (19-9)

Saturday's second round

2 p.m. — First-round winners meet.


Adult tournament pass, $10; child/senior tournament pass, $6. Adult single-day pass, $6; child/senior single-day pass, $4