The Azusa Pacific men’s tennis team is up for the new season with experienced players and some new faces for their 2017 campaign.
Seniors Pascal Engel and Shepherd Newcomb ranked seventh and fifteenth respectively in the West Region last season. Now the senior players are ready to bring their honed skills onto the court.
The Cougars also welcomed Antonio Pejic and Caden Fabrizio to their lineup.
Pejic, originally from Croatia, is an experienced player – joining the program as a junior. He has two years of collegiate experience after playing for Norfolk State University. Fabrizio is a freshman who will be starting with his Azusa Pacific champions journey with his seniors.
Junior Cameron Backman provides a certain dynamic to the team this season as he has experience in both singles and doubles from the 2016 season. Sophomore duo Marnix Pluim and Roberto Luconi also fall into this bracket.
Only playing for one season, senior Christian Schmid had 20 double wins and a 15-5 record in singles in the 2016 season. Ranking thirtieth in the nation for singles, the team is excited to see what he brings to the court.
The team’s scheduled season was to start on Friday, Feb. 3 against San Diego Christian, but the match was canceled. The team officially started its season against Division-III team, the University of Redlands, on Feb. 4 and swept the match with a score of 7-2.
The Cougars hope to make it to the national championship held in Orlando, Fla. in mid-May. Their next match will be their first away game of the season against Concordia on Feb. 8
APU’s women’s tennis team is also on track to make it to nationals. The women’s teams returns with nationally ranked Cougars that have some of the best talents in the region.
The Cougars enter into the season with a triple threat of three players ranked in the top 20 of the West Region – Lisa Schneider (6), Natalie Johnson (8) and Valeriia Kashina (11).
All three girls are the only seniors on the team and have represented APU as fifth in the competitive West Region.
“From the Fall to the Spring, I have seen our girls make big strides in their level of fitness,” assistant coach Kirby Ronning said. “In order for our team to take the next step this year, we really need to be strong in doubles, which has been a huge point of emphasis in practice. I’m very excited to watch this group compete this season.”
Late last year, the women’s tennis team competed in the women’s ITA West Regional championships co-hosted by Cal State Los Angeles and Azusa Pacific. The three seniors gave their all during the tournament and they were all able to advance to the quarterfinals. Azusa Pacific as a whole was able to win 11 matches during the singles tournament.
Johnson was the fourth player to be planted into the bracket with her three wins, but lost to Klara Thell-Lenntorp of Academy of Art (6-0, 6-3). The Cougars continued on a back and forth streak until they ran into trouble with Cal State L.A. and were dropped during the semifinals.
The team used the weekend to gain insight on what it would take to win during the 2017 season. The Cougars have a tough schedule coming up, but still have many goals in mind.
“An overall goal for myself is to go undefeated in season and to help out the team out anyway that I can. For the team, the overall goal would be to get better as players and people. We want to make nationals in Florida and beat Sonoma State,” Junior Jourdan Jefferson said.
Their first match of the season was also canceled on Feb. 3 against SDCC, but the Cougars are ready to compete in their next match on Feb. 8 against Concordia.
“I hope this year we continue to follow our usual goals: Stay as a united, caring, and as supportive of a team as we already are,” Kashina said.