Despite early season struggles, men’s tennis ‘hungry’ for Big Sky success


Alex Daniels - The State Hornet

Sacramento State junior Mikus Losbergs backhands the ball during a singles match against Cal Poly Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Sacramento State Courts.

Alex Daniels

Coming off a semifinal loss to Idaho in the Big Sky Conference Tournament last year, the Sacramento State men’s tennis team is excited for the possibilities of this season with a new head coach.

The Hornets are projected to finish third this season in the Big Sky, which is the same finish they had last year. Sac State amassed 98 points in the preseason poll and is behind Northern Arizona with 111 points and Idaho with 117 points.

This season, the Hornets will have a new head coach in longtime assistant Kevin Kurtz after 12-year head coach Vyacheslav “Slava” Konikov resigned to coach professionally, according to Kurtz.

Sac State started its season with an away loss to Saint Mary’s 4-3 on Friday and a home loss to Cal Poly 7-0 on Sunday. Despite these two early losses, Kurtz said that this will help his team to long-term success this year.

“The cool thing is that none of (these games) are Big Sky games, so it doesn’t matter too much,” Kurtz said. “That’s why we have a somewhat hard schedule in the beginning to get used to things and get ready for the Big Sky.”

Senior Kasparas Zemaitelis said that the struggles in the beginning of the season have always helped previous Sac State teams he’s been on dating back to 2015.

“We always struggle in the beginning,” Zemaitelis said. “We always play really good teams (in the beginning). It (helps us) prepare for Big Sky matches.”

Junior Mikus Losbergs injured his ankle during his singles match against Cal Poly, but he said he hopes to be ready for the next game in a few weeks.

Despite the team’s lopsided score against Cal Poly, Losbergs said he saw a lot of progress against the Mustangs.

“We played better than against Saint Mary’s,” Losbergs said. “It’s good to have a (difficult) schedule in the beginning (since it helps us prepare for the Big Sky).”

The team’s two losses this season have been described as “frustrating” by Losbergs, but he said it has taught the team to be tougher.

“It’s not like we (were losing) 4-0 and everyone gave up,” Losbergs said after the loss against Cal Poly. “The guys tried their best and it shows that it doesn’t matter what the score is. We want everyone to know that Sac State is a tough team, and we will always compete no matter what.”

Losbergs said that losing in the semifinals in last season’s Big Sky Tournament was also frustrating, but he said that irritation will help the team this season.

“Everyone is hungry to play conference again,” Losbergs said. “Now the first goal is to qualify for the conference tournament and see what happens in conference.”

The Hornets will look to bounce back from their 0-2 preseason start when they play the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Feb. 2 in preparation for the first Big Sky game of the year on Feb. 3 against North Dakota in Grand Forks.