The men’s tennis team secured the victory over No. 1 Lamar in the Western Athletic Conference Championship Tournament to secure the university’s first WAC Championship.
Going into the tournament, the Wildcats had a 5-1 conference record, putting them in the second seed and bypassing the quarterfinal round. They met No. 3 New Mexico State in the semifinals, gaining the win, 4-2.
“Beating a team three times is hard,” head coach Juan Nunez said. ” I think you know it’s what we talk about being resilient, being tough when it comes to a conference set and conference tournament setting. It’s about who is going to be able to take more punches and continue to fight and we were able to do just that.”
Playing the No. 1 doubles spot was Daniel Morozov, freshman from Joliet, Illinois, and Dario Kmet, sophomore from Sydney, Australia, who secured the win in a tiebreaker 7-6 (7-5). In the No. 2 doubles spot were Jose Maria Rastrojo, freshman from Seville, Spain, and Savan Chhabra, sophomore from Irving, who secured the first win of the day, 6-4. The No. 3 doubles went unfinished. With the Wildcats being up 2-0 after doubles, they had to continue to stay strong through singles.
Going into singles, No. 4 Chhabra and No. 5 Cesar Barranquero, freshman from Villaescusa, Spain, won both of their matches in straight sets, putting ACU now up 4-0. No.1 Morozov and No. 2 Kmet both lost their matches in a close battle, giving New Mexico their first two wins. In No. 3 singles, Tyler Stewart, freshman from Midland, was the last match to finish, splitting sets and moving into a third set tiebreaker where he won 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), securing the ultimate victory for ACU.
“I’ve had to put different lineups and different people in the lineup,” Nunez said. “Everybody that we’ve put through has always been able to step up and get it done and today was no different, right, we got it done.”
Moving on to the championship matchup against No. 1 Lamar, the Wildcats were ready to give it their all.
With the same doubles lineup as the last dual, ACU secured each win one by one in a straight-set. Heading into doubles, the Wildcats were up 3-0, reaching closer to a WAC title. Stewart lost his match in straight sets, giving Lamar their first win. Kmet had a tough match, reaching a tiebreaker in the first set but gaining the win 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. Barranquero also reached a tiebreaker in the first set, giving him a competitive matchup, but he pulled through and got the win 7-6 (7-2), 6-3. Finishing last, No. 6 Oswaldo Cano, senior from Zacatlan, Mexico, had two close sets but stayed strong and secured the win in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4.
“The guys were so excited on the way back home,” Nunez said. “It would be silent on the ride back and then all of a sudden it would just get loud and they would be passing the trophy and sign around again and someone would ask to play “We are the Champions” again but they deserved it. They worked so hard and they deserve to celebrate as much as they want.”
The Wildcats gained the victory over Lamar 4-1, pulling an upset, giving them their first-ever WAC trophy.
The men prepare for the NCAA National Championships Tournament starting May 6, with the Selection Show for the tournament taking place on May 2 at 5 p.m.