After winning the Big Sky Conference championship for the fourth-straight year, the Sacramento State men’s tennis team will take on Stanford in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament on Saturday.
The Hornets defeated the University of Montana in a blowout fashion after quickly winning the match 4-0 on April 22.
Senior Javier Millan said it was awesome to win the conference again, but he was not sure at the beginning of the season it was going to happen.
“It was a great feeling,” Millan said. “All the hard work that everyone put in during the season paid off at the end. We weren’t that sure this year because we had a completely different team. We have four freshman and a lot of those teams aren’t as young as our team, so it was really good for us.”
Despite winning the Big Sky, the Hornets finished with an overall losing record of 11-12 and 7-1 in conference play.
But the stat standing out now, since the Hornets will not be playing Big Sky teams anymore, is almost all of their losses have come against non-conference teams. The Hornets are 4-11 against those teams and seven of their 11 losses were either 6-1 or 7-0.
And Stanford is no different from the non-conference teams the Hornets have played, if not better than all of them.
The Hornets played Stanford last year in a regular season match and lost 7-0. This year will be the fourth time the two teams have played each other in the first round of the tournament.
In its conference tournament, Stanford won early, but was knocked out in the semifinals against the No. 1 team in the nation, the University of Southern California.
Stanford comes into this year’s match 17-8 on the season and appearing in its 34th NCAA Tournament appearance. It is also ranked No. 10 in the nation and No. 11 in the tournament.
For the Hornets, this is their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Last year, the Hornets lost 4-0 to USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the numbers are not good for the Hornets this year either. Stanford holds a 100-17 record against teams in the tournament since the current format of the tournament was established in 1977.
Stanford has also won 15 NCAA Tournament titles in school history, but have not won since 2000 when they beat Virginia Commonwealth University.
Last year, Stanford lost in the quarterfinal to the University of Virginia 4-3.
Stanford also comes into the match after losing three of its last six matches, but all three losses came against top five ranked teams.
Millan said winning the Big Sky will help the team mentally against Stanford, but he does not think the team has what it takes yet to pull off the upset.
“It will give them more confidence,” Millan said. “But I don’t think we are there yet to beat one of those teams. For next year, the goal is to get ranked and then win the Big Sky and not get a tough team in the next round next year.”
Junior Aliaksandr Malko said he likes being matched up with Stanford and he thinks the Hornets have the best chance of upsetting Stanford out of all the teams they could have been matched up with.
“Stanford is not that great this year, they lost 7-0 a couple times,” Malko said.
Whether the Hornets win or lose, freshman Tom Miller said it is just exciting to get a shot to play in the NCAA Tournament in his first year.
“It’s obviously really exciting,” Miller said. “It’s nice to have something to work towards right up to the end of the season, but there really is no pressure on us. We’ve in a way achieved our goals for the season and now we’re just going to keep working hard for the next couple weeks and just give it our best shot.”
The Sacramento State women’s tennis team will begin its run in the NCAA Division I Tournament on May 11 against winners of other national conferences including teams from the Pac-12, Patriot League and the Big Ten. It will be facing UC Berkeley in the first round of the tournament.
Sac State earned its place in the NCAA Tournament after winning its 11th regular season and tournament titles in the Big Sky Conference on April 21, with 92 consecutive wins in the conference.
Big Sky Most Valuable Player senior Tatsiana Kapshai, senior Clarisse Baca and junior Rebeca Delgado were named first all-team conference and will lead the team in the tournament’s first round against the Bears.
The Hornets met Cal during the regular season on March 23 in Berkeley with the Bears taking the win, 7-0. Sac State has faced Cal eight times overall and has never emerged victorious in any of the matches.
Sac State took only one match win in the meet with the doubles team of sophomore Katharina Knoebl and sophomore Sophie Lohscheidt.
Kapshai said the team was excited for another chance to face Cal and will use its knowledge of the opposition for an even match.
“We try to work individually since we know what opponents we will be facing, each player knows their opponent and we can focus on specifics,” Kapshai said.
Head coach Dima Hrynashka said he will be focusing on fine-tuning specific problems with each player in order to mentally prepare them for the tournament.
“I will be spending a little more time with girls individually to help them with shots and doubles games in order to gain confidence and develop an aggressive game,” Hrynashka said.
Sac State enters the tournament on an eight-game winning streak and a season record of 17-9 with its last loss to Cal.
Cal enters the postseason 17-6 with an 11 match win streak and is currently ranked No. 8 nationally in singles and No. 10 in doubles. Cal senior Jana Juricova ranks No. 7 in the singles division.
Josh Stanley and Joe de Ocampo can be reached at [email protected]
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