Kicking off a stretch of 11 home games over the course of the next 10 days, the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team hosted the Boston College Eagles and UNLV Rebels in consecutive back-to-back games last week.
The Men’s team saw their home-stand off to a promising start last Thursday, as they handedly defeated the visiting Boston Eagles 6-1. With the first two doubles matches being split, the responsibility of securing the point in doubles fell upon the shoulders of Ryan Cheung and Jonathan Poon.
Despite struggling early on, Cheung and Poon continued to fight and would work their way back into the match after a crucial break and hold at 4-5. Irvine’s number one doubles team wouldn’t drop another game for the rest of the pro set, closing out the match at 8-5. The win was a promising sign of things to come, as the men’s tennis team is currently 0-5 when dropping the doubles point.
Riding the momentum of their triumph in doubles, the Anteaters made quick work of their opponents in singles, winning five out of the six opening sets. Irvine would win four of its matches in straight sets, while Jonathan Hammel battled back after dropping the first set 4-6, going on to win the next two 6-0, 6-2. Unfortunately, the day would end on a bittersweet note for the blue and gold, as Rafael Davidian was forced to retire despite being up 5-2 in the third set due to back spasms.
However, the ’Eaters would have little time to revel in their victory, as they would have to prepare themselves for a more challenging foe in UNLV the following day. The Rebels and Anteaters are no strangers to each other, as they have played each other 8 times in the past 4 seasons, with the home team emerging victorious each time.
For the second day in a row, Irvine would split its first two doubles matches and look to Poon and Cheung to pull out the win in doubles. No strangers to their situation, the doubles tandem once again rose to the occasion. After a key break at 5-5, the pair would hold their next two service games to clinch the set at 8-6. Since last April, Cheung and Poon have now won 10 of their last 13 matches together.
Ace Matias would even the score to 1-1 for the Rebels at the outset of the singles round, as he defeated Cheung in straight sets at the number one position. The tie would not last for long, as Irvine would win the next three of their matches and continue the tradition of the home team emerging victorious whenever the two schools meet. Fittingly enough, it was Poon who clinched the win for the Anteaters, sweeping his opponent in consecutive tie-breakers at 7-6 (4).
“Today was a little bit of a breakthrough to gain some momentum, everybody has participated in the last couple of matches. I feel like we’re getting there, as a coach you’re never fully satisfied, I think if you become fully satisfied it gets a little scary,” Coach Kronneman said.
UC Irvine will look to carry over their win streak into next week, where they will play five matches over the course of six days. The men will resume play next Tuesday, where they will play Georgetown in the morning and Richmond later on in the afternoon. Although the team’s record of 4-9 overall and 0-1 in conference may seem dismal, it should be noted that seven of those losses came at the hands of nationally ranked opponents.
Coach Kronneman has seen this happen before, and remains confident that the Anteaters will finish the season strong as they have in previous years.
“I’m expecting good things to happen as they always do. Every single year, we start off 4-7, 2-7 playing against strong programs like USC or UCLA. By the end of the year, we’ve caught a little bit of fire, and we already played the best, so we understand what it means to play the best, to be the best, and so we start acting like that. I expect things to improve: We’ll be in the conference championships with a chance to win it, and that’s where we want to be every single year.”