As universities are preparing for the second half of the school year, spring sports are gearing up for hopefully a successful season. However, Sacramento State tennis for both men and women have tasted success not once, but consecutively in a stretch lasting more than decade.
The men have won five straight Big Sky Conference championship tournament titles and nine since the new millenium. While the women have dominated the Big Sky Conference in the last 12 seasons as they have won all 12 conference championships.
Along with the consecutive titles, the women have racked up 105 straight conference wins, which ranks near the top in the nation all-time for consecutive conference wins.
Jennifer Nguyen was one of two freshmen to earn first-team accolades for the women last season along with Olivia Bolja. Last season, the two accounted for a 26-22 record in singles play, but went 20-0 in conference.
Women’s tennis head coach Dima Hyrnashka said Nguyen’s work ethic is what sets her apart, along with the team chemistry.
“She didn’t go home for Christmas break, so she has been practicing consistently,” Hyrnashka. “A lot of the girls are also really close.”
The two sophomores will be part of a young squad this season, while seniors Katharina Knoebl and Sophie Lohscheidt bring experience the team with seven freshmen and five sophomores.
Hyrnashka said there are many factors behind the scenes that contribute to the dominant success of the Sac State tennis programs.
“From the director of tennis helping so much, players working so hard and coaches trying to work with them to bring them the best that you can,” Hyrnashka said.
On the men’s side of the court last season was not only their fifth consecutive Big Sky title, but the team made its 10th NCAA tournament appearance before losing to USC 4-0. In that match, the Hornets faced five of the six nationally ranked Trojans in the single matches.
With the early exit in the NCAA tournament, Sac State had a solid season last year with a 17-13 overall record and 9-1 in conference regular season play, before it dominated in the Big Sky Conference tournament.
On the men’s side, assistant coach Kevin Kurtz said comfortability and the ability to adapt is what helps the team stay on track.
“The team cohesiveness is great,” Kurtz said. “I think their English is amazing and that helps with working together and understanding.”
The Sac State men’s team is heading into this season is led by a talented upper class of six juniors, all of which came in as freshman together – besides Oliver Andersen.
“They get all fired up and work hard for one another,” Kurtz said. “Five of these guys came here at once when, so they were really young, so it’s kind of nice to have these guys that came in together, finish together.”
Junior Roy Brandys said it feels good to move forward with championship team he started his college career with at Sac State.
“As a team, I feel like we’re getting better and better every year and five of us have been on the team since my freshman year, so the last few years it has basically been the same team with a couple of new guys,” Brandys said.
Another junior leader Marek Marksoo was the most decorated Hornet last year receiving the conference MVP and first team honors. He also was ranked 117th in the nation as an individual. The junior was 16-3 in single matches, including his last 13 straight matches.
As both programs are starting off with losing records, men (1-2) and women (0-2), matches will reconvene Saturday with the men at Loyola Marymount and the women at Fresno State.
Clifton Jones and Jillian Kweller can be reached on Twitter @SH_Sports