Dear Slug fans,
The men of slug tennis put together another valiant effort down south at the prestigious 111 year old Ojai tournament. The Ojai is always an incredibly well run event, utilizing over 156 courts throughout the Ojai valley with all the divisions closing in on the final site, Libbey Park, for their final showdowns.
In our singles, many of our lower guys got a chance to test their limits and play higher level opponents from other schools. Yushi Ayabe played a very talented number 3 player from Pomona-Pitzer, where we were able to witness some of Yushi's best tennis to date. His high level through the first set was incredible, with a barrage of forehand winners and a strong control of every point. As his opponent began to lock down, the match became more even with his opponent getting the best of Yushi after 3 sets.
Andre Halabi also faced a tough opponent in his first round match. Against a high level Cal Lutheran player, Andre again pushed his offense to new heights. It wasn't enough to get through as he lost in 3 sets, but as he continues to take control of more and more of the rallies, Andre's development will continue to allow him to close the gap on his potential.
Sam Rodgers played a strong Pomona-Pitzer player in his first round, and battling nerves and an ever expanding aggressive game in the making, he struggled to find his rhythm. Losing in straight sets, with many quality lessons to learn, Sam still finds a way to keep his focus on his development and we can expect to see even more improvement in his skill level as each day passes.
Erik Rosner drew a tough CMS player and worked through the match with a level head. His opponent exposed some areas for Erik to take a closer look at, but we have enjoyed seeing Erik work to find his own singles game and style of play.
Parker played beautifully in dispatching his first round CMS opponent in straight sets, controlling the net and defending well when needed. His second round was even more impressive as he was playing a dangerous Redlands player, yet again, he found his style of play and flow that allowed him to stay on top of his opponent from start to finish. Making it to the quarterfinals was an impressive run, and that's where Parker eventually fell short to Cal Lutheran's top player. A wonderful singles tournament for Parker as he put together two well played matches and his growth in staying in that competitive zone only gets better and better.
Erich Koenig fought through his first round match in straight sets, showing strong composure against a tough Redlands opponent. In his second round, he played a CMS opponent that displayed some extremely high level tennis. In a compelling back and forth battle, with Erich scraping out the first set in a breaker, and his opponent winning the second set 6-3 with only one hold total, Erich was playing without some of his greatest weapons. Finding himself down 5-2 in the third set, Brian Pybas had just finished his match and rolled down to Erich's court to offer some inspiration. And from some deep, deep space, in the midst of true tennis beauty, Erich fought, clawed, and battled his way back to winning 5 straight games and the third set, 7-5. A truly impressive performance that highlights slug tennis in its purest form. In Erich's quarterfinal match, he played the top CMS player, and didn't execute the shots needed to win. But a wonderful event for Erich, as he goes on to show us what kind of competitor he has become.
To top off the singles, our team leader, Brian Pybas, displayed his impressive skill set with his Ojai run. After three straight set wins putting him into the semis against Cal Lutheran's top player, Brian found himself in a hole with not much room for error. With an injured back, unable to hit out on his serve, and playing a very tough opponent early Sunday morning, Pybas needed to dig out from a 6-4, 4-0 deficit. And as usual, with whatever power he had left, he pulled out all the stops and managed to reel off 9 straight games and finished off his opponent 6-3 in the third set for a birth in the final. However, due to his increasing pain, he was forced to retire after the first set of the match to the top player from CMS. However, making it to the finals of this prestigious tournament again proves to the country how strong and how well Brian Pybas competes, day in and day out.
Onto our doubles, we had four teams play in the draw. Andre Halabi and Bryce Bettwy embarked on their collegiate debut as a duo. Their practices leading up to Ojai had been nothing short of impressive, as they dispatched most of our top starting doubles teams. But in their first round, they came out cold and weren't in top form, but nonetheless, they enjoyed their battle and they fought hard to the end.
Ian Stanley and Erik Rosner dominated their first round with their wonderful blend of big serving, aggressive returns, and well placed volleys. In their second round, facing a strong CMS team, they fell 8-6 in a close match (the CMS team ended up making it to the semis). Moving forward, consistency in their serving and returning will be key as they look to become one of our most rock solid doubles positions yet again.
Erich Koenig and Sam Rodgers displayed some of their best, if not their best doubles matches to date. Competing harder than ever, fighting for every point, and not giving their opponents an inch, they scrapped through the number 4 seeded Cal Lutheran team in one of the highlights of the tournament. They then took down a tough CMS team before falling to fellow teammates Brian Pybas and Parker Larsen in the semi finals. A truly impressive run for these two boys as their early struggle with doubles in the beginning of the season has only spurred on their hard work ethic and competitive nature.
Brian Pybas and Parker Larsen rolled through three teams placing themselves in the doubles final. Their best tennis has been a result of their ever present relaxed state of competing, crafty shot making, and textbook doubles plays. In the finals, Pybas was still suffering from a sore back, and wasn't in top form. And against arguably the most fiery and dangerous doubles team in the draw, the Redlands team was coming for them guns blazing. Their energy and desire proved to be too much for the slugs as they grinded out a 3 set victory over Brian and Parker.
As always, it was an absolute pleasure competing in this magnificent event, and our players found much to learn from to take home.
We want to give a special thanks to the Pybas family and the Koenig family for their incredible hospitality and support through our weekend. Also, it was wonderful to see Kris Rosner in support, the Rodgers', Sam Bettwy, and the Stanley's. Every additional slug fan out there cheering on our boys makes for an ever more meaningful event. Thanks for your time, love, and continued generosity as without you guys, this program couldn't live on.
Up next in our schedule, we have the first two rounds of the NCAA National Team Championships, which will be hosted at our very own, UC-Santa Cruz courts. The dates are set to be Friday, May 13th, and Saturday, May 14th, with the time to be determined. Round up all the tennis fans you know and come support the slugs in this very special event as we head down the home stretch of our 2011 season. The environment should be exciting, electric, and thrilling as we face the top teams in our region for a chance to play in the final showdown later in May.
Thanks and go slugs!
Coaches Hansen and Seeberger