By PJ Marcello, Staff Writer -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking to extend their unbeaten streak, Pilots men's tennis will conclude its six-game homestand today at 10:30 a.m. against No. 54 UC Irvine. Last Friday the team continued its winning ways, narrowly edging out WCC rival Gonzaga 4-3 in the team's conference opener. The Pilots are now 5-0 to start the season.
With the advent of conference matches, players were eager to start seeing how they stacked up to the competition.
Sophomore Justin Guay relishes the prospect of playing every conference team before the end of season conference tournament, unlike in years past.
"Now, we get to play all the teams in our conference before the tournament," Guay said. "It's exciting. Teams in conference are good, and playing them is good for our team."
Senior Geoff Hernandez is also thrilled to begin conference play.
"It makes every match count and keeps everyone sharp," Hernandez said. "It's all about testing ourselves. We want to play the schools that are nationally ranked so we can prove we belong."
If Friday is any indication, the Pilots showed just how much they belong. The Bulldogs, no pushovers themselves, came into the match standing at 4-2, but fell behind from the start.
The Pilots quickly took the doubles point, with a win from Hernandez and freshman Stefan Micov, as well as from the sophomore tandem of Alex Ferrero and Michel Hu Kwo.
Holding on to the one-point lead going into the singles portion of the match, Hernandez and Micov both helped to quickly extend it. After dropping his second set, Micov quickly squelched any hope of Gonzaga's Vladimir Mijatovic coming back with a commanding 6-0 third set victory.
Hernandez, playing in the number two position, was able to hold off Gonzaga's Levin Guillermo 7-6, 6-4 in an electrifying match where he quickly took control of the first set tiebreak and never looked back.
"I just had to keep hanging in there," Hernandez said. "With a guy like that, you have to stay in it until they crack."
Hu Kwo, playing number one, could not extend the lead, and fell to Gonzaga's Nazal Alvaro after an excruciating first set tiebreak loss. However, he remained positive after the match.
"The way that guy played is the way that I struggle with," Hu Kwo said. "I need to become better playing against people who just grind from the baseline, so this week I'll work on being more aggressive."
With the team now leading 3-1, Ferrero wrapped up the victory with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Gonzaga's Olivier Jamin.
While excited to be unbeaten, players cautioned that the quick start should not become a distraction towards future goals.
"The best teams are still to come," Ferrero said. "We still have a lot of matches left, and each one is going to get tougher. We shouldn't focus on our start that much."
Daniel Coelho, one of two seniors on the team, also warned against reading into the start too much, as well as the difficulty of upcoming matches.
"The years before we have had pretty good starts too," Coelho said. "The schedule's going to get tougher and tougher, but we've been improving. Hopefully we can show UP some good tennis."
With matches against top-25 opponents such as Pepperdine and University of San Diego rapidly approaching, the Pilots are relishing the chance to play on the big stage.
"We don't want to play for nothing,"Hernandez said. "We want to play for something."