The Utah State Men’s Tennis team opened Mountain West Conference play with a 4-1 win over San Diego State Saturday afternoon in Logan, avenging last season’s only conference loss in the process.
“I think our team definitely had that in the back of their minds. This team wanted to get some revenge from last year’s loss,” head coach James Wilson said. “Our team did a great job of managing their emotions and being able to compete.”
After USU head football coach Matt Wells opened up the match with a ceremonious first serve, the Aggies went right to work in doubles play. Sophomore Jonas Maier and sernio Jack Swindells faced little resistance in their set, defeating Nicholas Mitchell and Santiago Cevallos, 6-1. Junior Kai Wehnelt and sophomore Samuel Serrano were unable to clinch the point, losing 6-4 to Milen Ianakiev and Marko Goles-Babic. Juniors Jaime Barajas and Andrew Nakajima were able to close it out, however, with a 6-3 win over Joel Popov and Sander Gjoels-Andersen to send the Aggies to singles play up 1-0.
From there, the final result was seldom in doubt. Wehnelt showed why he entered the season as the No. 2 ranked singles player in the Mountain region, with a straight sets victory over Ianakiev, winning 6-4, 6-3. Shortly thereafter, Serrano closed out his own straight sets victory, defeating Popov 7-5, 6-4. Leading 3-0, the Aggies needed only one victory from either Barajas or Swindells to clinch the match. In a back-and-forth match, Barajas ultimately succumbed to a late-match rally from Goles-Babic, losing 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) to snap an eight-game match winning streak for Barajas. Minutes later, however, Swindells completed his own comeback to defeat Gjoels-Andersen 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to clinch the conference opener for the Aggies.
“It’s an awesome feeling. We handily beat them today,” Swindells said following his clinching point. “We got a little unlucky on (Court) 1, but I think it was a pretty dominant performance by everyone. Last year, we had several match points to win the whole match and couldn’t get it and now to come back here and get that revenge is pretty cool.”
The win moves the Aggies to 13-7 on the season. The 1-0 start in conference play is good enough for first place, at least temporarily. While the conference title is certainly in the Aggies’ sights, coach Wilson knows not to gloss over any opponent left on the schedule.
“Every week is gonna be a challenge for different reasons, so we’ve gotta be ready,” Wilson said. “Every week is going to be very difficult.”
With the Aggies firmly entrenched as one of the favorites for the conference title, and boasting a national ranking of No.42, the Aggies will receive the full attention and effort of everyone. With several tough road matches on the schedule, the task is daunting for the Aggies to take the regular season title for the second year in a row, but certainly attainable.
“I think we’ve got a good chance if we have all six players compete every match,” Wilson said. “That’s all I’m gonna say.”
Utah State next plays at UNLV next Sunday at 12 pm MST.