Pilots spend spring break undefeated

By The Beacon | March 20, 2012 9:00pm

After going 3-0 over break, men’s tennis look to face No. 16 San Diego tomorrow

Freshman Stefan Micov waits to jump into action while his doubles partner, senior Geoff Hernandez, prepares to serve. The Pilots’ doubles teams are currently 23-7 on the year (Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

By Jason Hortsch, Staff Writer -- hortsch12@up.edu

Continuing its winning ways, the Pilots men's tennis team won all three of its matches over break, beating Portland State, Weber State and Montana. The Pilots will next face San Diego tomorrow at home at 10:30 a.m. San Diego is currently ranked 16th in the country.

After starting the season 6-0, the Pilots earned a national ranking of No. 45 at the end of February. This was the first time the team had been ranked since 2007, when the Pilots briefly ascended to No. 75. The team was thrilled by their accomplishment.

"It felt great," sophomore Michel Hu Kwo said. "I felt really happy for our seniors, since they could end their season saying they were ranked No. 45. For me personally, it was one of my goals I set up before the season."

Senior Geoff Hernandez, one of two seniors on the team, had been looking forward to being ranked for years. He felt that the team had long deserved such a distinction.

"It was pretty gratifying," Hernandez said. "I'd never felt that in my four years here. I always felt like we had deserved it. Everybody was really pumped up, but we knew it meant you had to keep a certain standard. We tried to not let it change how we approached things."

Hu Kwo cautioned, however, that the team could not become complacent once the ranking had been reached.

"Our coach told us it's just a number," Hu Kwo said. "That number can go away in a moment. We still have to fight every match."

Unfortunately, the number did go away, as the Pilots dropped out of rankings again after two straight losses to San Antonio and Radford in early March. While the losses could have been just frustrating, the team opted to take a positive outlook.

"The two matches we lost, it's not like we played poorly," Hu Kwo said. "Tomorrow is always a new day, and we can learn from how we lost. We always look forward."

Freshman Stefan Micov agreed, noting the losses were only a temporary setback for the team.

"We practiced what we did badly in the matches," Micov said. "Psychologically it just took a day to shake off the losses, and after that it was just about improving our tennis."

Looking ahead to No. 16 San Diego and beyond, the team is ready for the chance to prove itself. Hernandez knows, though, that the team must be completely locked in to the challenge.

"When you play a team that's ranked as high as they are, you know there's no way to win if you play cautious," Hernandez said. "We have to go after it."

Hu Kwo also realizes the Pilots must use their home court to their advantage.

"The thing is to not be scared," Hu Kwo said. "It's pretty easy to tell ourselves that because they're No. 16 we'll lose. But we have the home court advantage and anything can happen on these courts. We just need to believe."

Junior Jackson Martin also stressed the need for mental fortitude during tough matches.

"We can't get defeated mentally if we get down early or lose the first set," Martin said. "Those teams are good."

Sophomore Michel Hu Kwo launches a jump serve during Sunday’s match against Montana. The Pilots beat the Grizzlies 5-2. (Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

Senior Geoff Hernandez takes aim at an incoming volley from his singles opponent in the Pilots’ March 18 match against the Montana Grizzlies. The Pilots began their season 6-0 and jumped back quickly after falling to San Antonio and Radford (Monica McAllister | The Beacon)