The Cal Poly Men’s Tennis team are on a roll with the postseason approaching, having won nine of their past 12 games.
The Mustangs (12-8, 3-0 Big West) are undefeated in conference play and have earned a first round bye in the upcoming Big West Tournament.
“I think all the tennis we have been playing has helped us be a little more ready to make better and better decisions in those [crucial deciding] moments,” head coach Nick Carless said. “And it’s paid off.”
Cal Poly began their packed March schedule with wins over UNLV, 4-1 on March 8 and Denver, 6-1 on March 10.
A 5-2 loss to New Mexico on March 24 broke the Mustangs’ four game winning streak. The Lobos earned the doubles point. Junior Antoine Noel and freshman Gary Vardanyan were the only Mustangs duo to get a win in doubles play, beating their opponents in the No. 3 spot 6-2. In singles play, sophomore Alex Stater won straight sets at 6-4, 6-4 and has won his last six matches. Senior Dominic Bechard picked up his third singles win at 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The Mustangs picked up the pace at Utah State and for a 4-3 victory on March 27. The dynamic doubles duo of Noel and Vardanyan won their match 6-3 for their fifth straight win and improved their record to a team-best of 5-1.
Stater “gained his confidence” over the season and was just named last week’s Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for the first time in his career. He won his singles match 6-3, 7-6. The win was Stater’s seventh in a row and he improved his record to a team-best of 10-3. Senior Josh Ortlip picked up a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 win at the No. 1 position and his overall became 8-5 this season. Redshirt freshman Daly Meinert won by set scores of 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 on the way to his first singles dual match win of his career.
Cal Poly then defeated UC Irvine 5-2. Stater pushed his singles winning streak to eight wins straight. The Ortlip-Bechard duo won 7-5 over their Anteater opponents. Noel and Vardanyan came through with a clutch 7-6 win over the Anteaters. The Noel-Vardanyan duo was at a six-match winning streak.
“Giving our best every day and spending time together off the court,” Noel said of the reason behind his chemistry with Vardanyan. Ortlip, Stater, Vardanyan and Noel all won their singles matches to secure the road win over UC Irvine.
The Mustangs kicked off April with a 4-0 loss to No. 12 Stanford. which was a loss “the right way”, according to Carless. This was just Cal Poly’s second loss in 11 games. At the time doubles ended, Cal Poly’s No. 1 senior duo consisting of Bechard and Ortlip were tied 6-6 with the 31st ranked doubles duo in the country of Stanford’s Axel Geller and Alex Rotsaert.
Cal Poly came close in the other three singles matches. Ortlip was tied at a set apiece going into the third set against the No 12 nationally-ranked player, Axel Geller. Noel won the first set and was tied 3-3 in the second set with Rotsaert, the 47th ranked singles player in the country and Stater was fighting a battle in the second set with the 110th ranked player William Genesen. The match ended before Cal Poly could close and these three singles matches were left unfinished.
The Mustangs proved they were still in the fight for the Big West with a 4-0 win on the road at UC Davis. Both the duos of Ortlip-Bechard and Noel-Vardanyan won their doubles matches. Ortlip and Vardanyan picked up their singles wins while, Meinert won his second match of the season after a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“Strong core values, hard work and coming together as a team,” Ortlip said of what he improved as he picked up his fourth straight singles win and won the doubles match with his Bechard. Noel picked up a singles victory to earn a 10-3 record.
Cal Poly picked up another win against UC Riverside this Saturday. The 4-2 victory is exactly the kind of momentum the Mustangs need swinging into their two last conference matches before the Big West. The Mustangs fell to Santa Clara 4-3 on April 14.
The Mustangs have their last home game Friday, April 19 against Hawai’i and then travel to play UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, April 20. Cal Poly has two more matches until the Big West Tournament on Thursday, April 25.