Sonoma State men’s tennis team and their number one player, Nate Oppenheim, battled to the end to complete the 7-0 victory on Sunday against UC Santa Cruz.
“I tried to play to win, and play aggressive because usually, the aggressive player wins,” Oppenheim said.
He said he had been struggling with the confidence in his forehand and felt it was necessary to go full force with it in order to win against a tough opponent.
The first six matches finished fairly quickly leaving everyone to watch the final few games of Oppenheim's match. It went down to the wire as each competitor had won one set, setting up a first to 10 tiebreaker to determine the outcome. It was a back and forth affair with Oppenheim finding a way to squeak it out. “I found a way in the big moments to pull it out,” Oppenheim said.
Since this match was on senior day, the players really wanted to find a way to win this match. “I had a lot of energy today, it was senior day, it is always good to get amped up early in the match,” Junior Alec Wong said. Wong cruised to victory in his singles match dropping the first game then winning 12 straight.
“My serve was really good today and my forehand was working pretty well, those helped give me the win today,” senior Igor Pissarenko said. A theme for many of the players was during the decisive moments they stepped up. Some of the scores looked different than the actual result. Each game was close for Pissarenko, but he made big shots in big moments.
Next week, the Seawolves will be playing in Arizona for the Conference Championship. They know the weather is likely to get up to 100 degrees, making habits built during the regular season paramount in crucial moments. The weather effects play by “kinda slowing down the moment,” Pissarenko said. “Maybe just staying a little bit calmer and not being to fast on trying to finish.”
If Sonoma State can win one round in Arizona next week in the Conference Championships they will be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. Last year they were in a similar situation and many players feel with a little bit better toughness and conditioning they can make big strides this year.
Winning this match handily against UC Santa Cruz, “is a good confidence booster for all of us, not just me.” Wong said. “We are pretty deep so anytime you can get a win and feel confident about it after is probably the best thing we can ask for.”
What gives these players energy is hearing their teammates support along with the fans. There were more fans than normal out there, making the “Noma” cheers very present throughout. With more fan support there becomes a real home-court advantage.
The PacWest Conference championships in Surprise, Arizona starts on Tuesday, not allowing much time for their bodies to recover. Playing this match so close before the conference championships were not bad because “it gives us the confidence going into Arizona knowing we can win.” Oppenheim said.
The conference championships end on Saturday, leaving a lot of tennis to be played, but so far with a 35 national rank, Sonoma State has had a successful season.