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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 9 Arizona falls to No. 8 Columbia in NCAA men’s tennis Sweet 16

Jay Corella
Arizona tennis players celebrate in a circle after defeating Arizona State 4-2 at Robson Tennis Center on April 7. The hard-fought victory came down to a singles match between Gustaf Strom and Max McKennon.

The No. 9 Arizona men’s tennis team headed into its matchup against No. 8 Columbia University on Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. in New York, N.Y., knowing they would have their hands full against one of the top programs in the country. Both teams appeared to be evenly matched on paper, and the same was true once both teams stepped on the courts and began play. Each match came down to the final moments of each set, with neither side able to pull away from the other. However, despite the Wildcats giving it all they could, the Lions ultimately pulled out one more clutch performance, securing a 4-3 victory and moving on to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.

This result means Arizona’s men’s tennis season has officially come to a close. The Wildcats finished their 2023-2024 season as both the Pac-12 Tournament and Regular Season Champions. They finished with a 26-4 overall record and 7-1 in conference play, which was the best record in the Pac-12.

No. 9 Arizona vs. No. 8 Columbia – Saturday, May 11, 10 a.m. 

Arizona faced off against Columbia at Philip & Cheryl Milstein Family Tennis Center Saturday morning for the chance to become one of the final eight teams to advance in the tournament. However, with as much grit and fervor as the Wildcats played with, it was still not enough to overcome the Lions, who were able to match their level of intensity throughout the day and, at the very last moment, found another gear to go to in order to put them over the top and secure the victory.

The doubles matches were tightly contested from the start, with all three courts tied at 2-2 early on. Columbia’s Max Westphal and Nicolas Kotzen secured the first doubles win, defeating Herman Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham 7-5 on court two. However, Arizona’s No. 46 duo, Colton Smith and Jay Friend, responded with a tiebreaker victory over No. 16 Theo Winegar and Michael Zheng, 7-6(7). Yet, Columbia still managed to take the doubles point when Alex Kotzen and Henry Ruger edged out Sasha Rozin and Gustaf Strom 7-6(3) in the final doubles match of the day.

At that point, the Wildcats understood it was do-or-die time in singles play, but Columbia did not let up and extended its lead with No. 23 Zheng’s 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 22 Smith. Then, as he has done so many times this season, Hoeyeraal brought Arizona back into the match with a 7-6(0), 6-3 win on court four. Despite losing that match, the Lions did not falter and once again extended their lead thanks to No. 100 Alex Kotzen’s defeat of No. 35 Friend 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Arizona continued to fight back and would eventually tie the match at 3-3 with wins from Nick Lagaev, who defeated Ruger 6-4, 6-4 on court six, and No. 70 Strom, who overcame Nicolas Kotzen 1-6, 6-3, 6-0. Then, the winner of this highly competitive Sweet 16 matchup would all come down to the match that happened on court five between Columbia’s Hugo Hashimoto and Arizona’s Casper Christensen. Hashimoto outlasted Christensen and took the first set 6-4, but Christensen responded promptly in the second set and secured the 6-3 win in his favor. Then it all came down to the final set of the day to determine which team would be moving on, and Hashimoto came through with a decisive single-set performance that Christensen could not best, resulting in a 6-3 win for the Lions and ultimately clinching their overall victory and spot as one of the final eight teams to move on. 

Looking ahead:

With the season officially at its end, this year’s Arizona men’s tennis team has a lot to be extremely proud of, even though it was unable to reach its ultimate goal of becoming a national champion. Even with this team losing a few of its senior players, it is still filled with many talented youth on the squad. With head coach Clancy Shield leading this group and having already achieved as much as he has during his time at Arizona, Wildcat fans can expect to see this team right back at it once again next season, looking to pick up where they left off and finish what they started this year.

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