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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Men win first match against USC since ’81

    JAKE LACEY

Mens tennis vs USC
    Jake Lacey
    JAKE LACEY Men’s tennis vs USC

    The No. 47 Arizona men’s tennis team set a number of goals entering the season, one of which was to beat a California school, said Arizona assistant coach Cory Hubbard. Over the weekend, the Wildcats were able to accomplish that very goal when they defeated No. 51 Southern California 4-3 Friday at the Robson Tennis Center.

    The win marked the second time in school history that Arizona (10-6, 1-1 Pacific 10 Conference) has beaten USC (7-10, 0-2), the last win coming in 1981.

    “”We were excited, it’s a big deal for us,”” Hubbard said. “”We knew going into the match we had a really good chance to win if we just wanted it more, and that’s what the guys did.””

    Arizona did not fair nearly as well on Saturday, getting swept 7-0 by No. 9 UCLA (13-4, 2-0).

    Against USC, the Wildcats got an early start and gained momentum going into singles after winning the doubles point.

    In the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, both pairs were able to upset their ranked counterparts, but singles play remained a battle for both teams.

    Sophomore Jason Labrosse was able to clinch the first singles point for the team, 6-2, 6-1, after winning his match in straight sets. Sophomore Claudio Christen gave the Wildcats an even bigger advantage with a 6-4, 6-1 victory competing in the No. 3 position.

    The clinching point was decided in a competition between two ranked players, senior captain and No. 58 Roger Matalonga and No. 88 junior Jamil Al-Agba. Matalonga followed the lead of his teammates and won his match in two straight sets as well, 6-1, 6-2.

    “”It was very special for me because every year I want to beat USC, UCLA or Stanford because I have never beat those teams before,”” Matalonga said.

    The victory was significant for Matalonga in his last go-around against the Trojans in the regular season, but it could not match the weight of the team victory.

    “”It was one of the best matches we have played all year,”” Hubbard said. “”They were confident and ready to play.””

    After already coming close but barely losing previously in the season, 4-3 on Feb. 25 in Los Angeles, the Wildcats came into Friday’s match better prepared.

    “”Last time we won a lot of first sets, but then they came back and won in their third sets,”” Hubbard said. “”But we won all the first sets and our guys kept their focus and kept their composure and really finished strong.””

    Although they reached a milestone on Friday, the next day wasn’t going to get much easier against the Bruins. Going into the match against UCLA, both schools were undefeated in conference play, but the Bruins had the season advantage from their 6-1 win on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.

    “”It was cool to play UCLA with first place on the line, so the guys were excited about it,”” Hubbard said.

    Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to get the strong start it had the previous day, as the Bruins swept in doubles, giving them the one-point lead entering singles.

    This was a factor for the team because usually the Wildcats have more energy after winning the doubles point, Hubbard said.

    It was also tough competition throughout all of the singles matches, with five of the six UCLA players ranked.

    A change in the lineup occurred in the No. 6 slot because redshirt freshman Peter Zimmer usually competes in that position, but the coaches gave sophomore Francois VanderMerwe some action against the Bruins.

    “”We wanted to get Francois a chance to play, he’s been practicing really well,”” Hubbard said. “”Peter is struggling a little with his confidence, and he’s a freshman. It’s a long season, so it’s sometimes good to give them a break.””

    The Wildcats feel they are in a good position for the remaining conference games, Matalonga said.

    “”It’s a good start for us,”” he said.

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