Since Mitch Somach’s singles title win in the fall season of 2011 at the Corvallis City Championships, Portland State men’s tennis hadn’t won a main draw title until juniors Wil Cochrane and Matt Pronesti accomplished the feat during the Nov. 7–9 Pacific Northwest Intercollegiates held at Kirkland’s Central Park Tennis Club. It was also the first time PSU has won a main draw doubles in four years, which was during the 2010 fall season at the Utah State Fall Invitation by Chris Rice and Roman Margoulis. Cochrane and Pronesti went through a three match stretch that included wins over Eastern Washington’s Farrar and Ness, University of Washington’s Puscalau and Raman, and in the finals defeating Gonzaga University’s Chip and Varas. In their debut as a pair for PSU, they made it a run to remember.
Cochrane expressed what it meant for him to win the doubles title, “It means a lot because we put a lot of work in and for me three years now, is significant because it was kind of my first time breaking through, I felt. It was a big moment for me and everybody, as well.”
Pronesti and Cochrane grew up together a short drive away from one another. They trained at the same facility and also played in leagues since they were 10 years old. “I don’t think there are any other teams in the Big Sky that have played as long as me and Matt have. I know that when he is down at certain moments, I know how to talk to him, to bring him up. Same to him, if I’m down, he knows how to talk and pick up the slack for me. That is huge because in doubles you won’t be always playing at a consistent high level.”
To cap off an impressive weekend, Cochrane also won the backdraw of the fourth singles flight. “Anytime I can finish the weekend with wins feels good. I had to beat some tough opponents, in which I feel I performed some of my best tennis. Doubles and singles are two different sports mentally and tactically, and we have to do well in both. To win at both just gives me more confidence that I can hopefully transfer into wins during the season.”
A common theme for this team is their camaraderie. Five of the players are from Oregon who grew up playing each other when they were younger. These reunions of players, along with many other players from various backgrounds, make this a close-knit group. They support each other on and off the court. By having this support present at their matches, the players receive an extra boost. “When you hit a big shot down the line, it’s silent, it is a different feeling when you hit a down-the-line winner and everybody goes “ahh.” To receive that energy from your teammates and know they’re rooting for you is huge.”
The team has set their goal to reach the conference postseason for the first time in their history. Cochrane believes with the pieces they possess they have what it takes to make it happen. “I think we made a big improvement from last year; we added a lot of new talent to the team, and our returners, Brent, Ian, myself and Nate, have improved greatly with another year of experience under our belts. Taking that into this fall, it proved that we are a better team than we were last year with the results that we got. Having a lot of good wins and going deep into the tournaments.”
One school they’ll be on the lookout for in the Big Sky is Sacramento State. They have 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and are 11-time Big Sky Conference Champions. From 2009–13 they made five consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament with Big Sky Championships.
It would mean a great deal for this group to achieve their goal. An impressive fall season has given a belief to the team that they’re going to be playing in the Big Sky Conference postseason for the first time in PSU history. “Anytime you can do something for the first time in history—whether how big or small—is a big deal.”