The UC Irvine men’s tennis team hosted their second day of a weekend-long Pre-Regional Tournament on Saturday at Anteater Stadium. All-Big West singles standout sophomore Khunpol Isarra and freshman Steven Henderson walked away with definitive victories and left no question as to who will be running the singles team next year.
After winning three of the doubles matches in the morning, the Anteaters followed with the singles session in the afternoon. UCI’s Pre-Regional Tournament focuses more on the singles rather than doubles. It allows different schools to evaluate their singles players to better align them to their respective number positions come game time. In other words, a player must earn the first spot, second spot and so forth in the singles line-up, very much in the same manner as first string or second string.
The Anteaters finished the singles session with seven victories and five losses.
“We picked it up one notch from [Friday],” said Head Coach Trevor Kronemann, referring to their 6-4 singles record the previous day. “We have a lot to learn and a lot to work on. We’re a young team. I think we performed well throughout the weekend,” Kronemann said.
But with sophomore Isarra continuing to dominate in his usual fashion, you would bet that Kronemann could sleep a little easier.
After losing 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 in a close match to University of Southern California’s Daniel Nguyen, Isarra bounced back with a resounding victory against Loyola Marymount’s Ivan Lopez. Isarra trounced Lopez 6-1, 6-1, breaking his serve six times throughout the match.
Isarra’s momentum came in the second set when he returned a serve from Lopez on a break point. Isarra swiftly answered with a smooth backhand that was answered by Lopez’s forehand. The ball bounced feebly towards Isarra’s baseline, which created opportunity for him to unload on a crosscourt-heavy forehand. Lopez was unable to answer back.
“My forehand was on today. I was just hitting it really well,” Isarra said. “When I was up 4-0 [in the second set] I just cruised on to win because I saw him quit.”
Even if he cruises through his opponents, he still wants his team to perform well. A national singles ranking would be nice, too.
“I just want the team to be at least ranked in the top 30. Hopefully I can get a national singles ranking and try to stay positive for the rest of the season,” Isarra said.
Isarra can rest assured that on the other side of the singles, freshman Steven Henderson can hold his end of the bargain as well. After losing his first match to USC’s Daniel Gliner, he came back to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a seesaw battle against Pepperdine’s Turner.
“Henderson did very well today. It will be the first time this year that we have a lot of depth,” Kronemann said. “You’ve got to give it to the freshman and the way he handled himself; [he is] out there working hard and learning. There’s a lot of young promise on the team.”
Henderson conducts himself with poise on the court, a feat many new freshman players are unable to accomplish. If in fact Henderson is the new asset for the men’s singles resurgence, then expect a new thriller on the singles side after losing senior standouts Alex Sundling and Victor Lamm last year.
The Anteaters will travel to Malibu to take part in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regionals on Oct. 17.