For the first time in program history, the APU’s men’s tennis team are PacWest Champions
In their first four years in the PacWest and NCAA Division II, the Azusa Pacific men’s tennis team has made it to the PacWest Championship every year, only to fall short as the runner-up… until now.
The fifth time proved to be the charm for the Cougars as they went on to defeat No. 9 Hawaii Hilo 5-2 in the program’s very first PacWest Championship victory.
“It’s pure joy, it’s just awesome. The last couple of days have been a team effort. We’ve been battling hard,” graduate student Oliver Frank said. “Today, we were down after doubles and coming up with the win was just incredible. Everyone gave it their all and I’m just so proud of the guys. It was just a great game today, a great weekend and a great tournament.”
The 14th-ranked Cougars played with a chip on their shoulders, as they were considered to be the underdogs against Hilo.
APU cruised past both Holy Names and Point Loma in order to make it back to the championship, where they looked to seek revenge on the Vulcans, who had earned a 7-2 victory over the Cougars last month. They were only one of two teams who had defeated APU during the regular season.
“We played Hilo a couple of weeks ago and had lost to them. We were overwhelmed, they had swept us in doubles, they had played well in singles, so this was just extra motivation for us today to get a rematch and show that we can beat them because we knew we had the potential to beat them and beat anyone in our conference,” Frank said.
In doubles, the Cougars found themselves down early to Hilo, falling behind 1-2, but were not discouraged by that. The Cougars came back more aggressive in singles to win all five of their matches, leaving Hawaii Hilo stunned.
Graduate student Christian Schmid credits the team’s mentality for being able to come back and perform the way they did in singles.
“I think the team mentality was different this year. We just grew closer together, and the trip to Florida that we had a few weeks ago really set the foundation for our team mentality, and I think that’s exactly what we showed off today, even when we were down 1-2,” Schmid said.
In early April, the team had a trip to Florida where they took on three nationally ranked teams. APU went 2-1 in those three matches, with their only loss coming from Barry University, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team at the time.
That team mentality and motivation was felt throughout the court during the tournament, especially for players like Frank as well.
“Knowing that all my teammates would be able to win their singles, I was able to focus on my match. I felt and heard that the guys were doing well, so that just gave me extra motivation on the court,” Frank said.
Frank won in all of his singles and doubles matches throughout the tournament and was named as the Most Outstanding Player.
Yet the Cougars still know that there is a lot more work to be done and they feel ready for the challenge.
“Florida was one thing but getting the title here is another step to take our team to the next level. I think it’s perfect timing and exactly what we need to go into the playoffs, and then to try to go to Nationals after,” Schmid said. “It does not feel like the season is over because there is so much more to accomplish – with playoffs and Nationals, anything can happen.”
Azusa Pacific improved to 25-2 on the season after defeating Hawaii Hilo and will be hosting an NCAA West Regional contest on either Monday, April 30 or Tuesday, May 1. The Cougars next opponent is yet to be determined but will be announced during the NCAA selection show on Tuesday, April 24 at 5:30 p.m.