LAFAYETTE — There was a reason for the smile spreading across the face of Louisiana-Lafayette men’s tennis coach Mike Jeffrey on Tuesday when he learned his team’s opponent for an NCAA Regional tournament.
Jeffrey’s third-seeded Cajuns (20-4) are headed to the University of Texas regional this weekend to play No. 2 Mississippi State (18-10), where a familiar friend of Jeffrey’s awaits UL-Lafayette in the first round.
Per Nilsson, MSU men’s tennis coach and Jeffrey were teammates on the Bulldogs’ 1991 team.
“I think this will be one of the great stories of this regional,” Jeffrey said. “It’s going to be a great matchup, playing against (Nilsson). Right now I’ really excited about our first round.”
Host Texas (20-5) is the region’s top seed. The Longhorns, who are 11-0 on their home court this year, play No. 4 Marist (15-4) in the first round.
Times of the regional matches were undetermined as of Thursday.
The Cajuns received an automatic berth in the regional after they defeated South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans.
UL-Lafayette has the most wins of any men’s Cajuns tennis team since 1998. This is the Cajuns’ first postseason tournament appearance since 2006.
This season the Cajuns have won 10 straight matches after a 4-2 defeat to George Washington in Lafayette.
MSU has lost three of its past four matches, but two of the defeats were to Southeastern Conference powerhouses Florida and Texas A&M.
Jeffrey said he was hoping the Cajuns would draw the Texas regional.
“I thought we would match up better with the teams going there as a third seed. It’s also the regional where I thought we would go. We are going to treat this as a conference tournament. It’s very similar,” Jeffrfey said.
Jeffrey said he has little information on any of the other regional teams.
Senior Rick deGroot, who teams in No. 1 doubles with Jake Wyman, said the Cajuns’ biggest strength has been their overall depth.
“In doubles we are deep especially at No. 1 through 3. Either me and Wyan, Edgar Lopez and Danny Faniola or Hunter Johnson and Carl Alberton at No. 3 are capable of playing well,” de Groot said.
deGroot and Wyman are 10-0 in their past 10 matches.
The Cajuns, deGroot said, were ready for regional competition this year.
“After last season I think we realized that we have a lot of experience and that has really helped us,” deGroot said.
Lopez, who plays at No. 1 in singles, is 9-1 when paired with Faniola in doubles.
“I know a couple of the (MSU) players and they are a really good team. I think that we have a great chance to advance in this regional,” Lopez said.