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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 9 Arizona men’s tennis set to face No. 8 Columbia in Sweet 16

Jay Corella
Sasha Rozin and Gustaf Strom return the ball from an ASU pair during the doubles stage of their game on April 7 at Robson Tennis Center. The Pair defeated their ASU counterparts with a score of 6-2.

The No. 9 seed Arizona men’s tennis team continues to dominate with its impressive play. The Wildcats opened their NCAA Tournament play with back-to-back 4-0 sweeps over Boise State University and No. 24 Auburn University and now move on to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past four seasons. This time around, the Wildcats will face No. 8 Columbia University on Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. in New York, NY, at Philip & Cheryl Milstein Family Tennis Center.

Arizona (26-3), the winner of nine straight matches, is set to face off against Columbia (22-3), which heads into this contest as winners of eight straight matches. Both programs are ranked within the top 10 in the nation and have played their best for the past two months; now they face each other for the chance to move on to the quarterfinals.

History vs. Columbia:

This upcoming matchup will be the first time the Arizona men’s tennis program will face Columbia. With that being the case, both programs will have the opportunity in this upcoming matchup to write the first chapter of history for their respective schools. This season, Arizona is 4-1 on the road, and three of those four away wins were played against ranked opponents. The Wildcats have played against 16 ranked teams and went 14-2 against those opponents, so they are well equipped to play away from home and against elevated levels of competition. 

However, the same thing could be said for Columbia, and in this case, this game will be hosted by the Lions, who finished their season 13-1 at home and played against 15 ranked teams, finishing 12-3 against those opponents. Both programs have shown to be more than capable of having success no matter where they play and the level of competition; more times than not, they both typically come out on top. However, with that being the case for both programs, the slight edge might likely have to go to Columbia since they are at home for this game and have only been defeated on their turf once this season.

Columbia’s season:

Columbia men’s tennis head coach Howard Endelman began his tenure in July 2019 and is now in his fourth season.

After the hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia surged back into national prominence with consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2022 and 2023. The Lions reclaimed their spot in the Top 10 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Collegiate Tennis Rankings for the fourth time since 2018.

The 2023 season marked a memorable chapter for the Lions, who finished with a 20-4 overall record. They posted a 6-1 mark in Ivy League action and earned the No. 13 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, which allowed them to host the first two rounds. The Lions cruised past St. Francis College Brooklyn with a 4-0 victory in the opening round but then faced a 2-4 loss to Stanford University in the second round.

Columbia began this season at the Tar Heel Invitational, confronting the No. 13 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for their debut match,  and secured a sweeping 4-0 victory. Following that win, the Lions faced Fairfield University in consecutive matches and swept them in both matches. However, the Lions faced their first defeat of the season the next week against No. 13 Wake Forest University on Feb 25. Despite this setback, they rebounded with three consecutive wins before hosting the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. During the championships, they faced No. 8 Harvard University, No. 21 Alabama University and No. 15 Duke University, ending with a 2-1 record with a loss to Harvard.

Continuing their regular season, Columbia extended its win streak to eight matches before its third loss of the season against No. 31 Cornell University on March 30. They swiftly recovered and closed out the regular season with six straight victories, including a win against Brown University and claimed their first Ivy League Championship since 2019. In NCAA Tournament play, Columbia began by sweeping Quinnipiac University 4-0, then moved on to face No. 26 Michigan University and clinched a 4-2 victory. Now all attention turns to Columbia’s upcoming matchup against Arizona.

Wildcats to watch:

Heading into this matchup, fans should be watching out for the usual suspects; these players, in particular, will more than likely come up at an important point in the match because it’s what they’ve done all season and postseason long. Starting off with the duo pair of Herman Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham: Hoeyeraal and Padgham, in just the past two matches of this tournament, have come through with tone-setting wins for the Wildcats, a trend they’ve maintained all year long. Whenever the team seems to be starting off a bit slow or needs to find a spark from somewhere, these two players usually provide it. On the season, they have lost only five matches when playing together, and in their last 10 games, they are 8-2. Expect to see Hoeyeraal and Padgham either set the tone early once again for Arizona in its match against Columbia or for the duo to come through late with some sort of clutch moment to give the Wildcats a chance to etch out the victory.

For singles, Nick Lagaev has been “Mr. Seal the Deal” with his performances in this tournament. With the Wildcats’ opening match against Boise State University, Lagaev secured the team’s win for the second consecutive match with his singles win. Then, in the following match against Auburn University, he put the Wildcats a point away from the team win and set up his teammate to close the deal. Lagaev has won seven straight matches and is 7-1 in his last eight matches. Expect to see Lagaev come through late in the match for the Wildcats because that’s what he’s done all season, and if he isn’t the one sealing the game for Arizona, he will more than likely be setting up one of his teammates to get the job done.

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