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The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 9 Arizona men’s tennis to host regional opening two rounds of NCAA Tournament

An+Arizona+tennis+player+celebrates+his+pair%E2%80%99s+win+over+an+ASU+pair+on+April+7+at+Robson+Tennis+Center.+The+first+set+of+matches+was+dominated+by+doubles+before+fanning+out+into+singles+matches+for+the+rest+of+the+day.
Jay Corella
An Arizona tennis player celebrates his pair’s win over an ASU pair on April 7 at Robson Tennis Center. The first set of matches was dominated by doubles before fanning out into singles matches for the rest of the day.

The No. 9 seed Arizona men’s tennis team is set to make history once more as it prepares to host the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tennis Championships for the second time in program history. The Wildcats’ tournament play begins with them facing off against a familiar opponent, Boise State University, on Friday, May 3, at 1 p.m. This match carries a sense of déjà vu, as it marks a rematch from last year’s first-round tournament match, where Arizona secured a decisive 4-0 victory over the Broncos.

In this tournament format, each match will adhere to regulation dual match rules. The competition commences with three doubles matches, each carrying one team point, followed by six singles matches, also valued at one team point each. Matches will employ no-ad scoring, featuring a seven-point tiebreaker played at six-games-all. Teams accumulating four or more team points will advance to the championship bracket. Additionally, once the doubles point is decided, all remaining individual matches will be stopped once a team winner has been determined, with the score reflecting completed matches only.

Arizona enters the tournament as the reigning Pac-12 Tournament and Regular Season Champions, a testament to its remarkable season up to this point. Under the leadership of head coach Clancy Shields, the Wildcats secured their fifth NCAA Championships bid, building on past successes. To add an additional layer of intrigue to this matchup is the looming familial rivalry between the head coaches of both teams. Clancy Shields of Arizona will once again face his brother, Luke Shields, leading the Boise State squad. This sibling rivalry will surely heighten the already high stakes in place for both programs as they prepare to battle it out on the courts.

History vs. Boise State:

Arizona and Boise State are set to meet for the eighth time, and historically, the Broncos have had a clear edge over the Wildcats. All-time, Boise State holds a 5-2 advantage against Arizona. The programs first faced one another back in 2003; fast forward 20 years later to their most recent meeting, which occurred on May 5, 2023, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in  Tucson. In that match, the Wildcats secured a dominant 4-0 sweep over the Broncos. A year later, both programs have reloaded and are coming off incredible seasons, and are  looking to continue writing some new history for their programs.

Boise State’s season:

Boise State’s head coach Luke Shields, a three-time Mountain West Coach of the Year, returned to his alma mater in May 2022. Shields was a three-time All-American and a member of the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame. He currently holds an impressive record of 41-18 at Boise State and 134-81 in his career as a collegiate head coach.

The Broncos had another special season under Luke Shields, tallying a record of 20-10 and securing their 20th NCAA Championship appearance. Despite facing Arizona in the opening round for the second consecutive year, Boise State is determined to rewrite history as it looks for its first NCAA Championship win since advancing to the round of 16 in 2009. However, one thing the Broncos are guaranteed is another winning season, marking the program’s 32nd since 1982 and third straight.

Boise State’s schedule was filled with many challenges this year, including 13 matches against nationally ranked-opponents. Despite the tough competition, the Broncos demonstrated resilience, finishing with a 5-8 record against those teams and finishing the season undefeated at home with a 12-0 record. Since Luke Shields took over the program, it is now going on its sixth undefeated home campaign since 1996 and the first since 2012.

Boise State’s roster boasts a formidable lineup of players who have been instrumental in the team’s success this season. Sam Sippel, this year’s Mountain West Championship MVP, has been exceptional at the No. 1 position, securing an 18-16 overall mark and an 11-10 record this spring. Facing 12 nationally-ranked opponents, Sippel’s performance earned him recognition as this year’s All-MW in singles and doubles, and he’s been invited to compete in the NCAA National Singles and Doubles Championships.

Jip van Assendelft, another top player for the Broncos, typically commands the No. 2 singles position. With an 8-13 record and a 16-15 overall mark, van Assendelft’s notable victory over the then-No.4 Ozan Baris of Michigan State University further highlights his skill. Recognized as a this year’s All-MW honoree in singles, he’s also been invited to compete in the NCAA National Doubles Championship alongside Sippel. These players are just a sample of the impressive roster Boise State will field against Arizona, which includes James Van Herzeele, Jan Lucca Marquardt, Jett Middleton, Idriss Haddouch and John Chin, giving the Broncos their best chance to emerge victorious against Arizona and beyond.

Wildcats to watch:

With a deep roster of talented and experienced players, several stand out among the rest for the Wildcats, starting with Jay Friend and Colton Smith. Both players have also been selected for the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championships.

Smith, currently No. 20 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Singles Rankings, has anchored the No. 1 spot throughout the season, amassing an impressive 29-9 singles record in the 2023-2024 season. He’s conquered 14 ranked opponents and holds a dual-match record of 13-5.

Friend, No. 34 nationally, has showcased his prowess throughout the season by defeating eight ranked singles opponents in his sophomore year. Accumulating 24 singles victories this season, including 13 in dual match play, Friend has been a consistent force on the court, excelling at both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions.

In addition to Smith and Friend, other standout players for the Wildcats include Casper Christensen, Herman Hoeyeraal and Nick Lagaev, each having at least 25 singles wins this season. Notably, Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham form arguably the second-best doubles duo on the team, with a commendable record of 13-5 overall and a perfect 6-0 in conference play.

Looking ahead:

The winner of the Arizona — Boise State match will advance to face either Pepperdine University or Auburn University on Saturday, May 4, at 1 p.m.

Pepperdine concluded its season with a 14-11 record, and despite facing a gauntlet in its non-conference schedule, such as Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University, Pepperdine secured a co-regular-season West Coast Conference title. With their head coach, Adam Schaechterle, leading the way and now aiming for the team’s first-ever Super Regionals. Pepperdine is led by a pair of ranked singles players in WCC Freshman of the Year and NCAA Singles Championship selection players No. 48 Edward Winter and No. 122 Pietro Fellin. Pepperdine not only has top-end talent but depth in its lineup. The Waves’ experienced players also include Linus Carlsson Halldin and Maxi Homberg, who bring valuable NCAA Tournament experience to the team, further strengthening their firepower against their opponents.

On the other hand, Auburn concluded its season with a 17-10 overall record, securing victories over top-ranked teams like Texas A&M, the University of South Carolina and the University of Florida. With their head coach Bobby Reynolds leading the charge for the Tigers, Auburn has secured its third consecutive NCAA Championship berth. The Tigers have seen standout performances from singles players like Billy Blaydes, who finished his season 21-9 and 6-0 in conference play and is currently riding an eight-game win streak heading into NCAA Tournament play, alongside No. 61 Finn Murgett, who finished 13-2 on the season and is riding a three-game win streak of his own. Then there’s arguably the Tigers’ best duo pairing of No. 20 Raul Dobai and Murgett, who finished the season 8-7 as a duo but were a perfect 4-0 in conference matches and are riding a four-game win streak heading into their opening match against Pepperdine.


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