Photo by Athletic Media Relations
Sophomore Jonas Maier clinched the deciding point, and the Utah State men’s tennis team won their third straight match against BYU Friday afternoon in Logan at the Sports Academy & Racquet Club. All three wins in the streak have been by a score of 4-3 and have been decided by the third set of the final match.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never had that before, to clinch 4-3,” said Maier following his clinching of the match. “It’s just an amazing experience. That’s why we work so hard. That’s why we play college tennis.”
The Aggies set the tone early, taking the doubles point 2-0 as junior Kai Wehnelt and sophomore Samuel Serrano defeated Jeremy Bourgeois and Matthew Pearce 6-3 while juniors Jaime Barajas and Andrew Nakajima disposed of Sam Tullis and Aidan Carrazedo 6-2.
The plot began to thicken during singles play, however. Senior Jack Swindells held his own, but ultimately lost to BYU’s Jacob Sullivan in consecutive sets, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Freshman Sergiu Bucur also struggled, losing to Matthew Pearce in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.
With the Aggies trailing 2-1, both Barajas and Wehnelt had their singles matches come down to third set tiebreakers. Wehnelt ultimately fell short to the Cougars’ Keaton Cullimore 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6). Barajas was able to rally, though, winning his match over Bourgeois 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) to keep the contest alive for the Aggies.
“I was down 5-4, and I felt like I needed to grind and make one more ball,” Barajas said. “That’s what I did and came out strong.”
“He’s obviously one of our best competitors,” said head coach James Wilson of Barajas. “He had to play a tiebreaker but went right back to work. He was very steady and kept working the point and was able to break that guy down at the end.”
Wilson commended his team for their ability to respond to adversity throughout the contest. “It was great to see our guys show a lot of resiliency,” Wilson said. “Having the match in our hands at a certain point, then losing momentum. Being able to hold it together mentally and get through it was really fun to watch.”
To complete the comeback, Serrano defeated John Pearce in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to set up Maier’s showdown with Aiden Carrazedo. Maier dominated the first and third sets, ultimately taking it 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
The Aggies have had several 4-3 matches this year, but the joy for the team has been unchanging no matter the frequency. “It’s just crazy. We’ve had this a couple of times, clinching 4-3. I can’t explain it. It’s just a crazy feeling,” Barajas said.
“Sometimes in tennis it can go either way, today it went our way,” Wilson said. “It’s a testament to their hard work and preparation. We preach every day going about our business and working hard and doing the little things right. A lot of times in the biggest moments, that’s when those things are revealed. I think that today we deserved to win because we’ve earned it and we’ve put in the work.”
The match was the first time in over 30 years that the Aggies had played BYU in Logan, and players fully recognized the boost they received from the fans in attendance.
“They did like 90% of the work,” Maier said. “Without them I don’t know how it would have been but they just pushed me throughout that third set. I had no doubt that I wouldn’t lose because I knew I had my team, I had the crowd behind me.”
The win propels the Aggies to 8-6 on the season. Next up for Utah State is a match at No. 39 Cal Poly on Tuesday at 1 pm. Following that match, the Aggies will play a doubleheader on Thursday versus Loyola Marymount and Georgetown.