The Pilot men’s tennis team is having its best spring season in 12 years.
Head coach Aaron Gross believes this year’s squad has the potential to win the school’s first-ever West Coast Conference title in tennis, men’s or women’s.
“We expect to win every match at this point,” Gross said. “It’s realistic that we can win the rest of our matches, but we need luck; we need health.”
At 12-1 overall and with two consecutive wins to start conference play, Portland sits at third in the WCC. They’re riding an eight-match winning streak. And as they return to the Bluff this Friday to host BYU, the front-end of a two-match home stand, recent history indicates that they’ll keep the streak alive. The Pilots have won 16 in a row at the Louisiana Pacific Tennis Center dating back to last year— six of which have come this season.
With only one senior leaving the team after this season, next spring is looking just as bright for the team.
“I think next year at this time on paper would for sure be the best team we’ve ever had,” Gross said.
But a huge part of the Pilots’ early success in 2017 has been the play of juniors Michail Pervolarakis and Mathieu Garcia, the team’s no.1 and no. 2 singles players, respectively. They are a combined 26-2 this season in singles matches. Pervolarakis is no. 114 nationally in the ITA singles rankings and was named last week’s WCC men’s tennis player of the week.
As a duo, Pervolarakis and Garcia have been just as dominant for the Pilots. They snagged conference doubles team of the week honors to help lead the team to the Golden State Invitational title on March 12 in Davis, Calif. They have been playing doubles together since last year.
“Mathieu is probably my best friend at UP,” Pervolarakis said. “We eat together, we do all this stuff together, so I feel like for doubles chemistry it plays a big role.”
Despite the accomplishments so far this season, Gross is hesitant to compare the current team to prior ones he’s had in his 19 years on The Bluff.
Matches are scheduled a year or two in advance so it’s hard to project how good the team and opponents will be each season, he says. Last year’s team, for example, won 16 of 24 matches with mostly freshmen and sophomores, far exceeding expectations. The WCC has also mandated a conference scheduled in recent years which requires each team to play home-and-away with each opponent. So in the past, prior to the rule, the conference’s perennial powerhouses— schools like Pepperdine, BYU, and San Diego— wouldn’t come to The Bluff because they didn’t have to.
“I scheduled to light (this year),” Gross said. “Next year, the schedule is a lot heavier.”
But Gross is confident of his team’s chances this spring against WCC foes. Injuries have been the biggest concern so far. But with good health later in conference play, he believes the Pilots can win a conference title this year.
“I want the (WCC championship) because I want to get to the NCAA’s at least once before finishing up with college,” Pervolarakis said.
Portland will host BYU on Friday at 10 a.m. and San Diego on Saturday at 3 p.m.