Playing without Andre Dome hasn’t been easy; the Mustangs current record is proof of that. Without arguably their best player this season, The Mustangs are 5-11 with four games left in the season.
Dome underwent offseason hip surgery and has not played in a dual this season. The Arroyo Grande native has been granted a medical redshirt for this season.
“He is recovering,” head coach Justin McGrath said at Monday’s press conference. “Hopefully he will be back in the line-up next fall.”
His teammates have struggled. The Mustangs went nearly two months before they grabbed their first win of the spring season. But after starting with seven losses, the Mustangs have seemed to turn their woes around by winning three of their last five matches.
“Obviously we are in a good place,” McGrath said. “We’ve had a real difficult schedule to begin with and I think that has actually helped us.”
Sacramento State defeated Cal Poly 4-3 in a nonconference match at the Rio Del Oro Racquet Club in Sacramento on Saturday. The Mustangs won two of the three doubles matches to open the contest and capture the point. Cal Poly’s Jordan Bridge and Drew Jacobs defeated Holden Ching and Anton Strhas 9-8 (11-9) at the No. 2 position. Blake Wardman and Brian McPhee took down Jason Smith and Jimmy Roberts, 8-6, at No. 3 to pick up the point.
In singles play, the Mustangs were without their No. 3 player, Alexander Sonesson, but still managed to take two of five matches. Cal Poly tallied wins at No. 4 and No. 6 singles. Jacobs defeated Ching in straight sets 6-3,6-0 at No 4. At No. 6, Sebastian Bell defeated Tim Lantin 2-6, 7-6 (8-6) and 3-2 (retied).
With Dome out, Matt Fawcett has been asked to fill the No. 1 singles position, who lost in straight sets Saturday. Just a sophomore, Fawcett is being asked to step into uncharted waters. With most of the season under his belt, Fawcett has impressed his coach.
“He has really had to step into role that I don’t think right off the bat he was truly comfortable with,” McGrath said. “But now he seems to be managing it well. He has really stepped up.”
Although the Mustangs struggled early, the Mustangs never lost sight of their goal. No matter how long the losing streak, McGrath kept telling his players to keep their heads up.
“I always say it is where you finish at the end of the year, not in the beginning,” McGrath said. “I give the guys a lot of credit they’ve stuck with it — stuck with me — and they’re starting to play with a lot more confidence.”
If there is any time to be playing well, it is now. The season is nearly over and the conference tournament is just over the horizon. If Cal Poly can build of their recent success, the Mustangs are still within reach of inching into postseason play.
“You want to be playing well in April,” McGrath said. “Our goal is to get to the NCAA tournament and win a conference championship. The guys are pretty fired up about it.”
But, the Mustangs will have to get past Denver first. Even if Cal Poly is streaking, Denver is playing well too.
Denver is (17-2) overall this season and are on a nine-game winning streak. The Pioneers have seven wins over ranked teams and have four singles players that have records above .500.
Andrew Landwerlen Leads the singles effort with a (24-5) overall record with Jens Vorkefeld (21-8) close behind him. In doubles Vorkefeld and Yannick Weihs stand with a team-best (18-7) record and David Simson and Jens Landwerlen (11-6) make up the only other duo with 10 wins.
After graduating just one senior last season, the Pioneers enter this season with four new players and high expectations. With head coach Danny Westerman entering his fourth season coaching the Pioneers, Denver hopes to improve upon its semifinal appearance in the Sun Belt Conference tournament last year.
Cal Poly is trying to surpass last season’s season ending loss in the Big West Championship semi-finals against UC Irvine, but won’t be able to unless they keep winning.
It all starts with the Pioneers Thursday in Denver.