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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s tennis advances to Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals

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Amelia McAnear

Colton Smith lunges in a doubles match against Pepperdine University on Feb. 3 at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center. The Wildcats went on to win the match 6-1. 

The No. 2 seed Arizona men’s tennis team defeated No. 7 seed USC 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday, April 25. Now, the Wildcats prepare to face off against the No. 6 seed University of Oregon in the semifinals on Friday, April 26, at 4 p.m.

Arizona, 22-3 on the season, has won its fifth straight game heading into its matchup against the Ducks. Oregon is 14-12 on the season and is coming off defeating the No. 3 seed UCLA in its quarterfinals match 4-1. Prior to Oregon’s Pac-12 Tournament play, it closed out the regular season with back-to-back losses against ASU and Arizona, with both matches resulting in the Ducks falling 4-1. Now, after securing a hard-fought win against UCLA, Oregon prepares to face Arizona once again for the chance to play for the final Pac-12 Tournament Championship this Saturday.

History vs. Oregon 

Arizona is set to meet Oregon for the 22nd time in its upcoming matchup. Historically, the Ducks have held a slight edge over the Wildcats, leading the all-time series 11-10. However, recent history heavily favors Arizona, with the Wildcats winning the last five encounters against Oregon. The Wildcats’ most recent victory occurred on April 21, where the Wildcats convincingly outmatched the Ducks, securing a 4-1 win. In neutral venues this season, Oregon holds a record of 1-3, while Arizona boasts an 8-1 record, suggesting that this aspect of the match will likely favor the Wildcats.

Oregon’s season

In his 17th season as head coach of the Oregon men’s tennis program, Nils Schyllander has solidified his legacy with a record of 228-164 with the Ducks. Schyllander’s coaching background extends beyond the men’s team; he’s one of only two coaches in Intercollegiate Tennis Association history to earn regional coach of the year accolades for both men’s and women’s teams. Under his guidance, Oregon has become a force in collegiate tennis, enjoying seven consecutive seasons with 14 or more wins and making three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last five years.

Oregon had a promising start to its season with victories over Purdue University, Pacific University and Seattle University. The Ducks then faced their first losses of the season in the ITA Kick-Off matches against Boise State University and Vanderbilt University. However, Oregon rebounded and then went on a seven-game winning streak before encountering its first ranked opponent of the season in No. 15 San Diego State University. Despite subsequent losses, Oregon found its stride in conference play, securing crucial victories over the University of Washington and others. Then came the Pac-12 Tournament, at which the Ducks were able to pull off an upset over the No. 3 seed UCLA Bruins, setting the stage for a rematch against Arizona with a shot at the championships on the line this weekend.

As Oregon braces for the upcoming challenge against Arizona, its key players emerge as integral components in the path to victory. Ray Lo and Lenn Luemkemann are arguably the Ducks’ best singles players, with Lo currently holding a 7-3 singles record and Luemkemann not far behind with a record of 13-9 for the season. Their consistency and status as the only players on the team with at least three victories in conference play make them the most formidable opponents for the Wildcats.

In doubles, the duo of Matthew Burton and Quinn Vandecasteele stand out as the top pair for the Ducks, boasting a 13-7 record. Meanwhile, Avi Shugar and Vlad Breazu have also demonstrated their potential with a 5-1 record, including a perfect 3-0 in conference play. As Oregon’s top pairs in doubles, they present the toughest challenge to Arizona in terms of doubles play, highlighting the Ducks’ best chance as they look to keep their title hopes alive.

Wildcats to watch 

No. 20 Colton Smith and No. 71 Gustaf Strom played major roles in Arizona’s win over USC in its quarterfinal match. Strom won the Wildcats’ first singles match of the day for Arizona, while Smith secured Arizona’s lead down the stretch in its game against the Trojans. For the season, Smith is 28-9 overall in his singles play and is riding a three-game win streak at the moment, while Strom is 22-10 on the season in singles play and is riding a four-game streak of his own. Both of these players ranked within the top 100 singles players in the nation, have been consistent performers for Arizona all season. Strom and Smith once again came through for the Wildcats in their opening Pac-12 Tournament play, with no reason to doubt their excellent play moving forward.

When it comes to doubles, Arizona’s Eric Padgham and Herman Hoeyeraal always seem to either come up clutch for Arizona and solidify the doubles point for the team or they are the tone setters of a match. In their matchup against the Trojans, they started the day off strong for Arizona with a 6-2 doubles win. On the season, this duo is an impressive 13-3 and has won seven straight matches together. Arizona fans who will be watching these matches should definitely keep an eye out for these players, as it will likely be them leading the way for the Wildcats to have a chance to secure the final Pac-12 Tournament Championship.


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