Men’s tennis attempts to finish season strong

Gabe Pacheco

With the Big Sky Conference Tournament nearly two weeks away, the four-time defending Big Sky Champion’s Sacramento State men’s tennis team gears up for its final regular season opponent Saint Mary’s on April 21 before continuing its pursuit for a fifth straight title and NCAA tournament bid. 

During this past weekend, the Hornets improved their conference record to 9-1, picking up conference victories on the road against Portland State and Eastern Washington without co-captain and team’s star player Marek Marksoo. 

Marksoo has been sidelined for the past seven straight matches due to an ankle injury. The tennis team’s assistant head coach Kevin Kertz said he expects Marksoo to be at practice this week, but also addressed other players who have been battling through injuries.

“This trip was probably our toughest trip all year with our whole team dealing with something,” Kertz said. “But we still found a way to win, which has fired us up a little bit more. We have a couple of weeks to heal up some the injuries we have before our next match, which is great, so we will be fine.” 

The Hornets have been seeded at the No. 2 spot in the tournament behind undefeated conference opponent Idaho State (6-0). The Bengals are the team that gave the Hornets their only loss this year in conference play. They have four conference games left on their schedule. 

In last year’s tournament, the Hornets were seeded at the No. 2 spot in the conference tournament that featured a roster of four talented freshmen that dominated its conference – suffering only one loss in Big Sky play all year to conference opponent and No. 1 seed University of Montana.

The Hornets avenged their conference regular season loss against the Grizzlies by sweeping them with a 4-0 score on the biggest stage to claim their fourth straight Big Sky Title and 10th overall in a fifteen-year span since joining the conference in 1996-97. It was the Grizzlies first conference loss all year. 

Sophomore Tom Miller said the experience from last year’s championship run and the rough lessons that came along with it has paid off dividends in helping them learn what to expect  during tournament time. 

“We kind of came closer together as a team during that rough stretch and had it in us to turn things around,” Miller said. “It was a big confidence booster winning the Big Sky last year and it is something we want to continue to do for our remaining years here at Sac State. It was a goal then and is still now.”

Of the combined 36 matches in the past four years played in the championship match, 21 of them resulted in victories and 14 went unfinished because the Hornets secured the points needed in previous matches to earn the victory. They gave up one match defeat in 2010.

Hornets’ sophomore Sean Kolar, who is 12-2 in his last 14 single matches, said he is confident not only in his play of late but his team’s ability to repeat for a fifth time.

“Since we all have started and grew up together, I think we can all see we have what it takes to win again,” Kolar said. “Our conference isn’t the place where we get the best of our matches. We know what it is like to be in the NCAA tournament, and that is where we want to be headed.”

Big Sky Tournament play swings into action at the Gold River Racquet Ball Club in Sacramento April 26-28.


Gabe can be reached on Twitter at @sh_sports