After winning at home during Senior Day against University of California, San Diego 5-4 on April 12, and falling at the hands of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 0-5 on April 14, the Cougars entered the PacWest tournament with a record of 14-8, ranking No. 5 in the conference.
“We were really confident going to conference because we just had a huge win over UCSD, who we had lost to at the beginning of the season. Winning that match gave us a pretty good draw at conference, so our energy was high going into the tournament,” sophomore Kara Hinton said.
The Cougars played the No. 12 seeded Trailblazers of Dixie State University on the first day of the conference, sweeping the Trailblazers 5-0 to move on to the quarterfinals.
Then, the women faced the No. 4 seeded and No. 23 nationally ranked Golden Eagles of California State, Los Angeles for a chance at the semifinals. Both teams have come into contact this season twice before, with a win at home for each team. The Cougars fell 5-4 to Cal State L.A., knocking APU into the conference’s consolation bracket.
In the first round of the consolation bracket, the women beat No. 34 Concordia 5-1. The team then narrowly lost against No. 17 ranked Sonoma State, 5-3.
Senior Valeriia Kashina had a strong performance with a 6-0, 6-4 singles win against Sonoma State. Kashina and Jackie Resler recorded the only doubles win for APU in the match.
“My experience against Sonoma State was actually pretty awesome. It was the very last match of my collegiate athlete career. However, I let all the emotions and nerves go, and just tried to enjoy competitive tennis for one last time,” Kashina said.
Though the Cougars will be losing four seniors this season, teammates express hope for the newly-formed team in Fall 2017.
“From what I’ve heard about our incoming girls, we will be really deep throughout the lineup, so that’s going to be a huge advantage for us. I’m really excited to have a brand new team with a couple returners,” Hinton said.
Heading into the PacWest tournament, men’s tennis ranked No. 11 with a season record of 17-4, earning the No. 2 seed in the conference.
Sophomore Oliver Frank claimed his second PacWest conference Player of the Week award, holding the first perfect singles season in APU history, alongside the second highest single-season winning percentage between singles and doubles with .947.
In the first round of the PacWest tournament, the Cougars defeated Point Loma 5-0, advancing to the championship bracket to face BYU-Hawaii. The Cougars would defeat BYU-Hawaii for the second time this season by a score 5-1.
“The feeling after clinching the match against BYU was great! BYU is a solid team…[Winning] was not only the ticket for our spot in the PacWest championship, but another solid match to gain confidence for myself. I was very happy about the way we competed against BYU,” senior Christian Schmid said.
The Cougars entered the championship match facing the three-time defending PacWest Champion and reigning National Champion, Hawaii Pacific. This would be the fourth consecutive year that APU and Hawaii Pacific matched up in the PacWest championships, but the Cougars fell 5-1 against the Sharks.
“In the offseason, Oliver [Frank] and I played the ‘Individual National Tournament’ at the same facility. We ended up as the 2nd Doubles Team in the Nation and we had great memories from this tournament,” senior Pascal Engel said. “It was a great feeling to be back in Arizona and to enter the tournament as the No. 1 position doubles. We said to each other: ‘Here we go again, home sweet home.’”
However, the men’s season is far from over as they gear up to face the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this Wednesday at APU.
“Our regular season is over now but we are not even close to be done. We have a long way to go starting tomorrow. We are going to play the Regional final against UCSD at San Diego on Saturday and the winner goes to the nationals in Florida,” Engel said. “It is our short-term goal to win this match and go to nationals. The team is ready, and we are excited for the challenge. There is no holding back.”
Head coach Mark Bohren shares similar excitement at the unlocked potential of the Cougars to make nationals.
“If we win, we go to Orlando, Florida for the Final 16,” Bohren said. “If we get there, anything can happen.”