By: John Nardolillo
UCI Men’s Tennis defeated the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 7-0 Friday afternoon at the Anteater Tennis Stadium thanks to improved doubles play and dominant performances in the singles matches. The Anteaters improve to 6-3 on the season and protect an undefeated home record of 3-0, while NAU is still searching for their first win, sitting at 0-6.
With UCLA upcoming on the schedule, UCI head coach Mike Saunders did not want to be caught looking into the horizon.
“This team’s good so we didn’t want to overlook them, if they got up on us, it could have been a little bit difficult. I think the guys did a good job of just staying focused and staying in the moment,” Saunders said. “This season’s about being the best competitors we can be so every match, every point of every match, we’re just trying to be present and compete one point at a time.”
The number one doubles team of Justin Agbayani and Jonathan Poon captured the first victory 6-2 over Tim Handel and Ruben Montano, and the number three duo of Tyler Pham and Jonathan Hammel quickly followed suit with a 6-3 win against NAU’s Jackson Lee and Thomas Fisher, securing the doubles point.
Nico Mertens wrapped up the first singles win at the number two spot, grabbing the first set 6-0 before the Lumberjacks’ Lucas Taylor withdrew. Vatsal Bajpai dispatched Fisher at number five singles with a 6-4, 6-4 sweep to give the Anteaters a 3-0 lead.
Reigning Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week Sebastian Heim combined impressive power and mechanics with surprising elasticity to storm through the number one singles match in straight sets over Handel, 6-3, 6-2. The 67th ranked sophomore continues his unbeaten streak this season and boasts a 7-0 singles record.
After trailing 4-1 to the Lumberjacks’ Eden Peleg in the first set of number four singles, Luca Marquard turned on an extra gear to claim the set 7-5, and the second set 6-1, keeping the overall sweep intact. Jonathan Hammel was the only ‘Eater to go to a tiebreaking set after losing the first 6-4, but calmly regained form to take the following sets 6-1, 6-1 against Lee.
Tyler Pham, who overcame a 102-degree temperature, supplemented his stellar doubles play with a victory at number three singles 6-2, 7-5 over Montano to cap off the perfection for UCI.
Three top-100 ranked singles players and the rest of the No. 4 Bruins proved too much for the Anteaters on Saturday in Los Angeles. UCLA blanked UCI 7-0 as the ‘Eaters now drop to 6-4 on the year, while UCLA move to 8-2.
UCI failed to register a doubles win, losing the first two matches and the doubles point. The PAC-12’s own player of the week, No. 34 MacKenzie McDonald, was too much for the Anteaters’ No. 67 Sebastian Heim, sweeping the first singles match, 6-2, 6-1. The rest of the ‘Eaters fell in similar fashion.
Nico Mertens was the only UCI player to go to a third set, putting up an admirable fight against No. 37 Martin Redlicki but eventually losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
UCI earn some much needed rest before facing Boise State in a neutral site match-up in La Jolla on Thursday, March 3rd.