Slugs on Spring Break
Monday March 26th: #10UCSC vs UCSD(Division 2) @UCSD-2pm
The Slugs went 1-1 this weekend with a 5-4 loss to #6 Nationally ranked Kenyon College and a 6-3 victory over #4 Nationally ranked regional rival Claremont-Mud-Scripps. With a tough Friday afternoon loss to Kenyon, a mixed bag of emotions was apparent among the team as we prepared for our biggest match of the season that very next day. The yearly battle for progress towards home court advantage come Nationals was one day away. The Slugs went to sleep Friday night knowing that the battle Saturday afternoon would be an enormous test in every sense of the word. It was the match we had all been waiting for.
As we warmed up before the start of the match I wondered if I had done my job getting these boys ready for this match. We had spent so much time prepping both physically and mentally for our CMS battle that next day, I couldn’t help but feel we might not be giving this match the respect it deserved. The Lords came off to a quick start with wins at two and three doubles. Andre Halabi and Erich Koenig lost 8-5 at #3 battling to the end. At #2 Devin Nerenberg and Eli Scandalis played very well for most of the match, but having trouble holding serve led them to an 8-6 loss. Eli consistently served some of the best I have seen up to date, with Devin’s aggressive returns showing marked improvement. Erik Rosner and Ian Stanley continued their streak of solid play with an 8-6 victory at #1 doubles. Although a little loose at times they stepped up when needed, giving the Slugs hope as we went into the singles. Highlights of that doubles effort also included victories from Chris Goetz/Max Littlejohn and Mike Saria/Jordan Randolph at #4 and #5 doubles. Max and Chris walked away with a dominating 8-1 victory, while Mike and Jordan weren’t far off with an 8-2 win at #5. I was extremely impressed by the effort by these four young men as the depth and character of this group was easy to see.
In singles, matches 1-5 were determined in straight sets, with our solo 3-set victory at #6 singles by junior Sam Rodgers. Both Devin Nerenberg and Erich Koenig had great showings winning decidedly with extremely focused and poised play. After straight set losses by Andre Halabi, Erik Rosner, and Bryce Bettwy at 3, 4, and 5, the match was over. As we sat in our conference room post match and took as much out of it as we could the questioned remained, “How can we use this match to prepare us for our match with the Stags the following day?”
We went to dinner that night with family and friends, putting into perspective how lucky we really were. We had loving support from all angles, along with an unbelievable opportunity to do what we loved; compete and play tennis. As the mood started to shift that evening we started to get excited about the challenge we would face that next afternoon. How would we respond?
After breakfast that morning the Slugs went up to the east courts to begin the warm-up. As the music played over the speakers it was apparent that the boy’s focus was different that afternoon. The warm-up was tight, focused, and sharp. Before starting the match we sat around in our usual conference room and went in a circle answering the question, “What are we grateful for on this day?” Among a variation of answers a common theme seemed to arise. There was mutual excitement and appreciation around this opportunity to go to battle with everyone in that room, it was very touching.
As the energy began to increase after every point the Slugs began to pick up steam. The environment was loud and exciting with fans, friends, family, and alums all cheering with fire and gusto. First off were Erich Koenig and Max Littlejohn at #3 doubles with an 8-5 victory. With a last minute switch, Max was in his first and biggest match of the season as a freshman. He played with a level of courage and enthusiasm beyond measure; it was one of the most enjoyable doubles matches I have ever seen. Next were Eli and Devin with an 8-3 loss at #2. With a great start and good play towards the finish it wasn’t enough against the strong Stag team. Though facing some tough losses recently, the boys’ resiliency is there as I know they will keep continue to work. Last was our #1 doubles team of Ian and Erik Rosner who played an amazing match beating the #10 ranked team in the country 8-6. After giving back one break of serve at 7-4, Ian Stanley pushed it past the finish line serving for the match. We were up 2-1 going into singles and hopes were high.
Sometimes after a solid doubles showing it is easy to come out a little flat in singles, this was not the case. The Slugs came out blazing, winning 5 of the first 6 singles sets. Devin was first off with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over the #19 player in the country Warren Wood. His poise and calm presence was unshakable as he prevented Warren Wood from holding serve once the entire match. Next off was Bryce Bettwy at #5 with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mac Cahill. His ability to hold his level throughout an entire match is improving on a daily basis, it was one of the best showings of the day. The clincher in this match was Andre Halabi beating Alex Johnson, the #12 ranked player in the country, 6-2, 6-3. Andre, aka “The Sniper”, couldn’t miss a ball. His level of focus from start to finish was concrete. At that we had achieved one of our biggest goals of the season, the cheers were roaring! After Andre clinching the remaining matches continued. Next off was junior Erich Koenig who played a brilliant match at #2 singles losing 13-11 in the third set super-tiebreaker to Alex Lane, the #4 player in the country. Erich competed at the highest of levels and fought to the very end. It was a remarkable effort. Next off was Erik Rosner at #4 winning 7-5 in the third set after being down 0-4. Taking down a previous top 10 player, Robbie Erani, was a pretty special display of resiliency. Riza’s play and ability to compete is growing at an extremely fast rate. Last off was Sam Rodgers who lost a close third set 6-3. It was nice to see both players decide to play out the third set even though the match was decided. They obviously had a lot of mutual respect and wanted to push each other to keep growing their games. It was a very cool display.
In closing it was a day I will never forget. I found out later that day that doubles team Mike Saria and Jordan Randolph at #4 beat the team of nationally ranked Alex Johnson and partner Victor Chien with a score of 8-4. Rankings aren’t that important, but it does show how far these boys have come; top to bottom. To improve and compete at a level like this and to yield these types of results is pretty remarkable. I am so proud of this entire team for all they have given in this mutual effort to reach our fullest potential. A special thanks to Brian Pybas whose on-court coaching is growing by the minute. Always an amazing player, Brian’s progress as a coach is blossoming as he continues to expand his influence over this team. Brian and Matt’s contributions are essential. Also a quick thank you to all the parents, alums, and friends, who came up for the weekend event. Having friends and family present for matches like that make it so very special. Lastly a quick thank you to Samved who helped put the weekend event together and run the twitter among other things; it all adds up.
Next up is our annual Spring break trip heading down to San Diego and LA. Between March 26th-31st will have matches with UCSD, Williams, Redlands, Concordia, and Pomona-Pitzer. These matches, along with a scrimmage with best friend Bob Hansen and the Middlebury Panthers, should lead to an amazing week of play. Thanks again for all the support, we’ll keep you posted…
Dear Slug Tennis Friends and Family,
Hope you all had a good weekend! The Slugs came back from back-to-back matches in Fresno this past weekend with a solid showing. Coming of a stellar performance at the National Indoor Championships the week before, the Slugs were able to go 1-1 in Fresno, beating Division II Sonoma State and falling to the NAIA defending National Champions Fresno Pacific University.
UCSC was not able to overcome the reigning NAIA champions facing a 7-2 loss to the Sunbirds. The highlights of the match included wins by both Bryce Bettwy and Sam Rodgers at the five and six singles spots. While coming out in the doubles a little flat, Coach Parmelly said he was very impressed with how we competed in the singles matches to follow.
The Slugs had a strong showing against Sonoma State, beating the Seawolves 7-2. Erik Rosner/Ian Stanley and Devin Nerenberg/Eli Scandalis were able to take decisive wins in the doubles, winning their matches 8-5 and 8-6 respectively. Erich Koenig/Andre Halabi lost a close match at three doubles 8-5. The Slugs then went on to dominate in singles, winning 5 of 6 matches. Nerenberg, Koenig, Halabi, and Bettwy went on to win there singles matches decisively in straight sets. Erik Rosner pulled out an amazing three set match in the third set tiebreaker 7-3. Sam Rodgers was the only loss at number six singles coming off a strong victory the day before.
Looking forward to this weekend the team is gearing up for the home matches against Kenyon and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this Friday and Saturday March 9th and 10th. You are all invited to come out and support the team as they will be extremely exciting matches. Kenyon, currently ranked #6 nationally, will be this Friday with the match start time being pushed to 2:30pm due minor class conflicts. The match with CMS, currently ranked #4 nationally, will be this Saturday at 12:00pm. For those not able to come see the match live I will be posting twitter updates of live scores in both matches at: https://twitter.com/#!/UCSCSlugTennis. For those of you attending the Friday Match with Kenyon please make sure to purchase a parking permit at the kiosk at the main entrance of UCSC before coming to the match. Parking on Saturday will be free as long as you avoid parking in spots marked otherwise.
Coach Parmelly and the team are also extending the invitation to join them for dinner after the match on Friday at Pono Hawaiian Grill. Coaches and many of the players will be there from 7:30 to around 9pm so feel free to stop by to grab a bite to eat and hang out with the team. Menus/pricing as well as directions to Pono can be found at their website http://ponohawaiiangrill.com/. We hope to see you all this weekend!
Slug Tennis Nation
This past weekend in St. Peter, Minnesota the Slugs walked away with a 2nd place trophy and a monstrous step towards becoming the championship team we daily discuss. After defeating two top 10 nationally ranked teams in the first two rounds, Trinity of Texas and Washington University of St. Louis, the Slugs went down to the Emory Eagles of Atlanta Georgia. It would be easy to be disappointed with falling short of a National Championship last Sunday, but that would do the weekend a great injustice. Simply put it was a fantastic and inspiring weekend with more highlights than I can count. I could not be more proud of these young men and their efforts, a truly courageous showing.
Here is the link to all the exact scores of all three matches over the weekend: https://gustavus.edu/athletics/mt/ITA/2012/2012ITAIndoors.php
Day 1: Trinity of Texas
Coming off an up and down weekend in Washington just two weeks ago it’s safe to say that there was a lot riding on this match. Trinity of Texas is a top 10 nationally ranked team in our region, and we all knew they would be gunning for us. We lost at both #1 and #2 doubles to start the match and definitely had stretches of great play by Devin Nerenber/Eli Scandalis and Erik Rosner/Ian Stanley. To avoid the sweep it came down to Erich Konig and Andre Halabi. With only one match under their belt prior to the tournament these two had an amazing finish serving out the match with an 8-6 victory; swinging the momentum back for the Slugs! Not normally feeling this positive after being down 2-1 there was something different with this match. As we got in our normal circle before beginning the singles spirits were high as we were ready for the battle ahead. The singles effort was brilliant as we won five of the six singles with Bryce Bettwy being our only loss at #5 in a third set super-breaker. Our boys brought 100% in the singles matches that day. Andre Halabi won 6-1, 6-1, showing no mercy at #3 singles. We looked fit, sharp, energized, and confident; the connection between us was strong and with Erik Rosner clinching the match with true poise, after wins by Devin, Erich Koenig, and Andre, we were off to the semi-finals. Sam Rodgers finished the day with a singles victory at #6 singles. Given all he has gone through this past year with his elbow injury, I couldn’t be more proud. His journey to competing for this team is an inspiration to us all.
Day 2: Washington University of St. Louis Missouri
We were walking into the semi-finals against a team we had lost to twice last year 5-4. Wash U is an extremely tough and well-coached team, we were ready. The message going into that match was simple; “If it’s not broken don’t fix it.” I was so proud of the whole team the day before and our focus was to go out and do it again. As we started the doubles the energy and fire was even higher than the day before. We were in “dog fights,” at all three doubles spots but the backbone and resiliency of these boys came through. We refused to give in and before you knew it, we were on the board. It started with an amazing effort by both Devin and Eli Scandalis at #2 doubles with an 8-6 victory. Both Eli and Devin had faced challenges prior to the tournament but came together in true slug form to show they are for real. Next up was the effort by Ian Stanley and Riza (Erik Rosner) who finished a bloody match with a 7-5 tiebreaker victory at #1 doubles. I was extremely impressed with Ian’s ability to play at a very high level of doubles with great focus from start to finish. He kept Riza in the match as the two of them played large when they needed to. Last was another heart filled effort by Erik Koenig and Andre at #3 doubles with a 7-5 tiebreaker victory giving us the sweep against the #3 ranked team in the country. As a team we often talk about the difference between “running towards winning” and “running away from losing.” I wish you could have all seen our effort that day as it was nothing short of fearless. Devin started the singles with a tough loss to a very strong Putterman at #1 singles. Erich Koenig continued his streak of brilliance with a win at #2 and Andre faced a tough loss at #3. With three matches left we were up 4-2, one match to go! After winning the first set Erich Rosner went down 4-1 in the second as the momentum began to swing for Wash U. Both the on-court players and coaches could feel it as Erich yelled up to his teammates to come down and support him through this tough time. Riza went on to win five straight games and clinch the match for us with a level of focus and tenacity I had never seen before. The day consisted of multiple opportunities which we never hesitated to take capitalize on. After the matches finished we faced two 10 point tiebreaker losses by Bryce Bettwy and Sam Rodgers. We did a great job in both matches as the boys best tennis was starting to show. We were ready for the finals the next day. That next morning we were on to play Emory of Atlanta in our first National Championship appearance of the year.
Day 3: Emory University of Atlanta Georgia
As we warmed up before the beginning of the match that morning the boys looked sharp and relaxed. Our area of focus was again to compete like champions from start to finish; it is exactly what we did. Watching how the boys handled the momentum shift as we got swept in doubles I was very proud. They held their heads high and never gave up. There was a lot of information to take out of the doubles effort that day. We again played great stretches at all three doubles spots but didn’t execute as well as we had when we needed to. We were also playing a very tough team that didn’t give us much room for mistakes. We lost 8-6 at #1 doubles and 8-5 at #2 and #3 doubles. Going into the singles our focus was to finish the weekend how we had started it; together and fighting to the very end. First off was Andre at #3 singles, losing a tough match 6-4, 6-2. Andre’s commitment to keep improving is showing and will continue to make him one of the toughest players at his spot in the country. Devin was next off playing the #1 player in the country Dillon Pottish. Although he lost 7-5, 6-2, it was a showing that he can compete with any player in the country. His focus never wavered from start to finish; it was a beautiful match to see. He was lucky to have one of our assistant coaches Matt Seeberger sit with him the entire match. Matt continues to amaze me with all that he brings to this team. He is becoming a huge leader for this squad and, like this group, is continually tapping into his potential on seeing what he’s made of. Next up was a victory by Erich Koenig at #2 singles giving him a 5-1 record on the weekend. This was an amazing shift for him as he continues to lead this group in so many ways. It was a weekend he should truly be proud of. After facing a close loss with Riza at #4 singles Bryce and Sam were the last two to play. We got in as much of it as we could but had to cut matches short to make our flight. Sam lost one set 6-2 at the #6 spot and Bryce played the best match I had seen him play all weekend, winning in a super-breaker 10-7. Finishing the breaker with back-to-back winners made it clear that Bryce is starting to really compete at a high level. A great finish to his weekend.
What a weekend for the Slugs. We talk a lot about becoming a championship team and that is exactly what we are becoming. One of my favorite moments of the trip was watching my players move to the back seats of the team van as we all loaded in on the last day. How could this be one of my favorite moments of the weekend you might ask? As they usually compete over who gets the front seat the message they were showing me was apparent. “Team comes first, I come second.” We finished a morning workout yesterday morning and the feeling in the air has changed. The boys had a different look in their eyes and spring in their step, the belief is growing in what we will accomplish this year, as it should…
After returning from Fresno this upcoming weekend, where we will play both Fresno Pacific University and Sonoma State University, we will be gearing up for our two biggest home matches of the year. Friday March 9th we will be playing Kenyon College (#7 National Ranking) at 2pm on our home east courts. Saturday March 10th will be our biggest in-region home match against CMS of Los Angeles(#5 National Ranking) at 12:00 noon. Hope to see you there!