A tough season for men’s tennis

At the start of 2011, the Portland State men’s tennis team hoped to build upon last season’s performances and take the team to the next level under the tutelage of their second year head coach Jay Sterling.

At the start of 2011, the Portland State men’s tennis team hoped to build upon last season’s performances and take the team to the next level under the tutelage of their second year head coach Jay Sterling. The team’s goal was to finish among the top four teams in the Big Sky Conference and qualify for the playoffs.

However, despite some valiant mid-season performances, the Vikings fell short of their chosen goal. The team failed to make it to the playoffs after finishing seventh among the nine teams in the Big Sky Conference. The Viks had a 2-6 record in the conference and 5-13 overall. Back in 2010, PSU had finished fifth (4-4) in the conference and had a slightly better 7-10 overall performance.

The 2011 season didn’t get off to the kind of start the Vikings were hoping for, as the team struggled in January (0-3, 0-0 conference), losing all three matches they played in the month. The Viks kicked off their season against state rivals University of Oregon in Eugene and went down 1-6 to the Ducks. Senior Alex VanDerschelden was the only player to win his match.

In the other two games of the month, the Vikings lost to Cal Poly (1-6) and Idaho (0-7). Once again VanDerschelden was the only PSU player to win his match. VanDerschelden would go on and finish the season with a 6-9 singles record, tied second for the most number of singles wins amongst PSU players this season.

The Viks found more success in February, posting a 4-4 record overall and a 1-2 record in conference play. The Viks made a brilliant home debut at the Club Green Meadows against Gonzaga, hammering their opponents 7-0 to earn their first win of the season. In the following game, the Viks faced a tough Sacramento State side in their Big Sky home opener. Sacramento State has won the Big Sky regular season and championship tournaments for the past two years. The Viks battled hard, but narrowly lost 3-4 to the Hornets.

The Vikings won their next game against Seattle (6-1), but then lost their next three matches to Utah State (0-7), Utah (0-7) and Big Sky rivals Northern Colorado (3-4). The contest against Northern Colorado went right down to the wire and sophomore Mitch Somach almost gave the Viks a victory in the final and deciding singles match.

The Viks found some redemption in their next conference match against bottom-placed Northern Colorado. The team hammered Northern Colorado 7-0 at home to record their first Big Sky win of the season. Overall, PSU still had a 0.500 win-percentage through February.

PSU played just one game in the month of March, an important conference game on the road against Northern Arizona. The team knew that despite their resilient performance in the first two conference games, they would have a mountain to climb if they lost to the Lumberjacks. However, Northern Arizona handed PSU a 0-7 drubbing in Flagstaff, Ariz., and relegated them to 0-3 in conference play.

After nearly a month long break, the Viks got back to business in April with an encouraging 6-1 Big Sky win over Idaho State. Suddenly, it looked as though the team could match or even surpass last season’s performance if they finished strong in conference play. However, the win against Idaho would be their last of the season.

The Vikings saw the rest of their year spiral from one loss to another, dropping five successive games in a row to close out the season. The losses included defeats to city rivals Portland (1-6) and conference teams Montana State (2-5), Montana (1-6) and Eastern Washington (0-7).

The Viks played their last game of the season against Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State and lost that duel 2-5 on the road. At the end of the season, Somach stood out with his singles performance of nine wins and seven losses. He led the side in singles results and was the only player to finish above 0.500.

The season also marked the end of the tennis careers of several seniors: team captain Jeff Cero, Matt Erickson, Vetu Mam, Chris Rice and VanDerschelden. With the departure of so much senior leadership from the nine-player PSU roster, the coaching staff is in dire need of new players to step up into a leading role if they hope to make the postseason next year. ?