This article originally appeared in ZU News.
Playing the 13th-ranked team in the nation is hard. Playing the sixth-ranked team in the nation the next day is harder. Playing a third consecutive match in as many days is somehow even harder, let alone the fact that it was against the top team in the nation.
This week, the men’s tennis team travelled to Florida and did just that. They beat No. 13 Embry-Riddle, 5-2 on Monday. Then they beat No. 6, Flagler, 5-4 on Tuesday. Finally, they faced the No. 1 team in D-II, Barry, losing 3-6 on Wednesday.
Although the team dropped one of their matches, it was still a successful road trip, setting them up well as they prepare for the end of the season tourneys.
“It certainly takes it out of your body. It’s tough playing three top teams in a row, but it’s basically exactly what we need because we’re getting ready for the same format at the PacWest tournament and at nationals,” grad student Christian Schmid said. “It was a good test for us to see how we’ll physically endure and keep up with top teams.”
Schmid, currently ranked 39th among DII singles players, helped the Cougars by winning all of his singles matches. He beat Embry-Riddle’s Deepak Vishavkarma 6-1, 6-3; Flagler’s Alexander Chepik 7-5, 6-3; and Barry’s Carlos Gomez 6-3, 6-0. Gomez is the sixth-ranked singles player in all of DII.
“The match against Flagler was the toughest for me. It was super humid that day and I was playing their number two guy. It was an intense match of about an hour and a half,” Schmid said.
Schmid also won all of his doubles matches with his partner, grad student Oliver Frank. The duo knocked out all three opponents in sequence, including the fourth-ranked pair of Rodolfo Arreygue and Andres Donayre from Embry-Riddle, 8-4.
“It was a valuable experience for us to play better ranked teams back-to-back-to-back in only three days. For us, this was kind of a simulation what nationals could be like since we also play matches on following days,” Frank said. “Physically, it was a challenge for sure, but our off season prepared us to withstand the challenges. We had to take care of our bodies after the matches but overall we did a good job doing that.”
Frank also had three tough matches in singles against ranked opponents. He lost only his second singles match as a Cougar against 50th-ranked Juan Ortiz Couder of Embry Riddle 7-5, 6-4, before beating 13th-ranked Luca Bolla of Flagler 6-2, 6-0, and 11th-ranked Pierre Montrieul of Barry 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“The hardest match was definitely the last one against Barry. It was the third match in a row for us. We were all pumped up to play the No. 1 team in the nation although we were all physically not fresh,” Frank said. “Nevertheless, we fought hard and came close to winning almost every match. It was physically exhausting but it showed us that we have what it takes to beat them.”
Frank said that even though the team lost, the last match against Barry was the most exciting.
“The atmosphere in that last match was thrilling. Since nearly all of the matches were really close, both teams were nervous and no team could ever be sure of winning. That’s why it was a thriller to the very end,” Frank said.
Freshmen Jesse Haas also played well for the Cougars, winning two of his three doubles matches with his partner Ryan Nuno. Haas said he enjoyed the trip.
“It’s exciting. You train all year to get to play these great teams. It was definitely tiring. Three high level matches in three days is pretty mentally and physically taxing,” Haas said. “I think we handled it pretty well and got some pretty good results. I’m happy with that.”
Haas said that his match against Flagler turned out the best as he and Nuno were able to put pressure on their opponents and pull out the win. He said that he’s excited for the rest of the season as well.
“I’m excited to travel again. I heard that the San Diego trip is exciting. It will be fun for us to come together on the road and get the last couple wins,” Haas said. “It’s really exciting to be a part of the team where everyone works so hard.”
Now with a 20-2 record on the season, the team will go on one last road trip before the regular season ends, playing UC San Diego and Point Loma next weekend. Even though this is the end of the regular season, Schmid said it feels like there’s a lot left for the team.
“We don’t really feel like the season is almost over,” Schmid said. “We have so much more to accomplish this year, starting with the PacWest tournament. Our goal is to get that title. We still have a lot of work to do and a lot left to achieve. “