Men’s tennis wins fourth straight WCC title
Every college athlete understands the feeling of pride that comes with beating a conference foe. Years of battling against the same opponent often breed a mix of admiration and animosity.
The University of San Diego men’s tennis team, fresh off its fourth straight West Coast Conference Tournament championship, surely has instilled those feelings in other WCC teams over the last four seasons.
The consecutive quartet of conference tournament victories is something that had never happened before at USD.
The Toreros completed their run through the WCC tournament on Sat., April 29 in Claremont, Calif.
To bring home the hardware, the team had to endure a grueling 4-3 match against the Pepperdine Waves in the tournament’s championship round.
Despite the familiar feeling of winning the conference, senior Filip Vittek said this year’s triumph carried a slightly different feeling.
“We won the conference four years in a row, but this year we came as underdogs, as the fourth seed,” Vittek said. “It was really stressful, watching from the sidelines. But it was definitely the most exciting one I’ve had at USD so far.”
Vittek is one of the most decorated tennis players in school history. Earlier this season, Vittek broke the USD record for most career doubles wins.
He said that capping off his senior season with another WCC crown, and bringing home four straight for the first time ever, is something he will savor for a long time.
“It’s definitely a great accomplishment,” Vittek said. “It’s never happened before. It was the first time in the history of USD. This year was a great one because we had a really young team. We had five freshmen on the team, so they were in a tough situation going into the WCC conference. They didn’t really know what to expect. The other teams were more experienced; they had more older players on their team.”
One of those freshmen, Joel Gamerov of Orebro, Sweden, was instrumental in the Toreros’ upset win over the Waves. He was the first Torero of the day to win his match, giving USD its first points of the afternoon.
Gamerov defeated Pepperdine sophomore Jack Van Slyke by a score of 6-4, 6-3. Vittek also dismissed his counterpart in two sets, beating Guilherme Hadlich 7-6 (5), 6-3.
The final and most important win for the Toreros came from senior Josh Page. Of course, the final victory did not come easily. Page and Pepperdine’s Lautaro Pane grinded their way to a three set epic. Page came out on top, besting Pane by a final score of 7-6, 1-6, 6-3.
For the Toreros, earning a trophy in Claremont means the next step is traveling to the NCAA Tournament. Knowing this, the team held a gathering for the players to watch the selection show, the annual program that reveals who each team will play in the first round and where they will have to go to do that.
This year, the Toreros will go to the campus of the University of Southern California, where they will be pitted in the first round against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Vittek said that he knew the selection show would send them to Los Angeles, given the tournament’s history of keeping the Toreros in Southern California for the early rounds.
He also said that the gathering turned out to be an affair for more than just the men on the team.
“It was our team and the women’s team as well, and one of my professors came out there too and some other staff from USD,” Vittek said. “It’s always nice to see the teams and who made the tournament and who didn’t. It was exciting, but we knew that we were going to go to USC, because most of the time it alternates, we go to USC and then UCLA the next year. That’s the thing that I don’t really like about the NCAA because I believe [the location] should be completely random.”
While the location was no surprise, the Toreros did get an interesting matchup for their first round.
On May 12, USD will compete against the Badgers, who they previously tangled with as part of the San Diego Spring Break Tournament in March.
In that meeting, the Badgers came out on top by a score of 5-2. This time around, Vittek and the Toreros will have some extra motivation.
“We [play against] Wisconsin, [and] we lost to them earlier in the year,” Vittek said. “Hopefully, we can get our revenge this time.”
While revenge is surely on the mind of many of the players, the reality of the situation is, regardless of how the team fares in Los Angeles, that USD men’s tennis is in an incredible place to succeed in years ahead.
“I believe that USD will go in the right direction,” Vittek said. “They’re going to get some good players next year, and they’ll keep the tradition and hopefully get another [WCC title] next year.”
The Toreros are the lone WCC representative in this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket. A win against Wisconsin would likely mean a second round clash with No. 4 USC, one of the perennial tennis powerhouses on the West Coast.
If the Toreros can reverse their fortunes against the Badgers and move on to face the Trojans, it could bring a tremendous opportunity for Torero tennis to introduce itself to the rest of the NCAA as a force to be reckoned with.
USD may be a small private school on a hill from outside the major athletic conferences, but the last four years have shown that they can make quite the racket on the tennis court.
Written by Matthew Roberson, Sports Editor