LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State's No. 45-ranked men's tennis team qualified for its first ever NCAA Tournament as a team when it claimed the Mountain West Championship title on May 30 with a 4-0 win over UNLV in the finals. Previously, Utah State has sent three individuals and one doubles pairing to the tournament in 1970 for USU's only other NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Aggies will compete at the Berkeley, Calif., regional site hosted by California. Utah State's first-round opponent is Northwestern (21-10, 7-4 BIG 10), and the winner of USU's match will face the winner between No. 8 California and Tennessee Tech.
The Road to the Tournament
Utah State claimed the Mountain West regular season title and took the No. 1 seed into the conference tournament. Then, the Aggies dispatched of Boise State in the quarterfinals, 4-0, San Diego State in the semifinals, 4-1, and UNLV in the finals, 4-0. During the weekend, the Aggies went a combined 6-0 at the Nos. 5 and 6 singles positions with freshman Sergiu Bucur and sophomore Jonas Maier each going 3-0, respectively, including Maier providing the championship-clinching point against the Rebels.
A LOOK AT THE AGGIES
No. 45 Utah State (23-8, 6-1 MW) has won six matches in a row, and 15 of its last 16, with the only loss coming against New Mexico, 4-3, at home. The Aggies are led in dual matches by sophomore Jonas Maier and freshman Sergiu Bucur, both of whom have 17 singles wins. Bucur is currently on a 12-match winning streak, one shy of tying the school record set in 1970. Senior Jack Swindells is 16-9, while sophomore Samuel Serrano earned all-Mountain West honors after a 15-5 campaign. Rounding out USU's double-digit winners, junior Jaime Barajas is 13-9, while junior Kai Wehnelt is 12-12 during his all-Mountain West season. In doubles, the duo of Swindells and Maier is 16-9 and has won its last three decisions. Wehnelt and Serrano, an all-Mountain West duo, are 13-10 this season.
No. 21 Northwestern (21-10, 7-4 B1G) ended its regular season with a 4-2 loss against No. 31 Wisconsin in the B1G Tournament Quarterfinals. The Wildcats are led by No. 37 Strong Kirchheimer with a 17-7 dual match record while playing exclusively at the No. 1 spot in the lineup. No. 67 Konrad Zieba owns a 19-7 mark spending most of the season at the No. 2 spot, while Jason Seidman is 20-5 playing in the bottom half of the singles lineup. In doubles, the No. 53-ranked duo of Kirchheimer and Dominik Stary is 18-4, while the No. 80-ranked tandem of Zieba and Sam Shropshire is 10-9. The Aggies have never faced Northwestern on the tennis courts.
No. 8 California (18-7, 5-1 Pac-12) fell in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament to eventual champions USC. The Bears had won three-straight before the USC match. Cal is led by No. 12 Florian Lakat with a 12-7 mark at the No. 1 spot in the singles lineup, while No. 61 Andre Goransson is also 12-7, playing primarily at the No. 2 spot, while No. 81 Billy Griffith is 14-6 playing at both the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. In doubles, the No. 5-ranked duo of Lakat and Filip Bergevi is 13-4 playing at the top doubles spot. The No. 74-ranked team of Goransson and Griffith is 12-6 playing at the second position. Utah State and Cal have never met on the tennis courts before.
SCOUTING TENNESSEE TECH
Tennessee Tech (13-6, 6-0 OVC) is on a seven-match winning streak after winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Golden Eagles are led in dual matches by No. 58 Eduardo Mena with a 17-2 singles record at the No. 1 spot, including winning 13 matches in a row. Marcos Bernardes is 12-5 playing mostly at the No. 2 spot, while Guillermo Nicolas is 11-2 and Jorge Alfonzo is 10-4 to round out TTU's double-digit winners. In doubles, the duo of Mena and Bernardes is 5-2, while Nicolas and Alberto Esteban are 4-1. The Golden Eagles have used eight different doubles pairings this seaosn. Utah State and TTU have never faced each other.
First-year head coach James Wilson is starting his career at Utah State on a high note. This season, the Aggies set a school record by winning 23 matches, tied a school record with a nine-match winning streak and reached the highest ranking in school history, coming in at No. 39 on April 4. The Aggies also participated in their first-ever ITA National Team Indoor Championship, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time as a team.
Wilson was also the first head coach at USU to win in his season debut since Blake Wilcox did so in 1984, a span of seven head coaches. Wilson's Aggies upended UC Irvine on the road, 6-1, to pick up his first win as a head coach.
STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM
The bottom of Utah State's lineup, the Nos. 4-6 spots, are a combined 53-19 (.736) this season, including an outstanding 36-3 (.923) since the beginning of March, a span of 18 matches. During the Mountain West Tournament, the Aggies picked up wins from the Nos. 5 and 6 spots in each match, and the bottom half of the lineup went 8-0 overall during the three-day event.
Highlighting Utah State's depth is sophomore Jonas Maier who is 17-6 in those positions, including 15-2 at No. 6. Freshman Sergiu Bucur is 17-8 in the bottom of the lineup, including 9-1 at the No. 5 spot. The No. 4 spot has been filled by four players this year, with senior Jack Swindells and sophomore Samuel Serrano each going a perfect 3-0 at No. 4 singles.
WE'RE GOING STREAKING
Utah State posted a nine-match winning streak earlier this season, which was tied for the longest in school history with the 1967 team. Since having that streak snapped, the Aggies have won six in a row, giving USU its third winning streak of at least five matches this season.
On the combined singles and doubles wins list, senior Jack Swindells is third with 118, junior Jaime Barajas is fifth with 105 and sophomore Jonas Maier is eighth with 88. Only a sophomore, Maier is the only two-year player in the top-10 combined wins list. Among singles wins, Barajas is second with 64, Swindells is fourth with 62, Maier is 8th with 44 and sophomore Samuel Serrano is tied for ninth with 41. In doubles, Swindells is fourth with 56, Maier is eighth with 42 and Barajas is ninth with 41.
CURRENT AGGIES IN THE SINGLE-SEASON RECORD BOOKS
On the combined singles and doubles wins list, junior Kai Wehnelt is first, setting a new school record this year with 48, while senior Jack Swindells is second with 47. Sophomore Jonas Maier is tied for sixth with 42, and sophomore Samuel Serrano is tied for eighth with 41. In singles, Wehnelt and Swindells are both tied for first with 26, while both Maier and Serrano are tied for 10th with 21. In doubles, Wehnelt is tied for third with 22, Maier and Swindells are tied for fifth with 21, and Serrano is tied for eighth with 20.
AGGIES IN THE GOLDEN STATE
This season, Utah State went 4-2 playing in the state of California, defeating UC Irvine (6-1), Loyola Marymount (4-0), Georgetown (4-0) and Fresno State (4-1). The Aggies dropped matches against San Diego (1-6) and #45 Cal Poly (3-4).
NEW FOES, NEW CONFERENCE
Utah State and Northwestern have never met on the tennis courts, and it is rare for an Aggie team to face a team from the B1G. All time, Utah State is 0-2 against B1G schools, going 0-1 against Iowa and 0-1 against Wisconsin.
NORTHWESTERN - UTAH STATE CONNECTION
Northwestern sophomore Michael Lorenzini attended the same high school as current Utah State women's tennis freshman Sophia Haleas, Hinsdale Central High School in Clarendon Hills, Ill.
Seniors Jack Swindells and Daniel Echeverry both received their diplomas from Utah State last weekend on Saturday, May 6. Swindells earned a degree in economics, while Echeverry graduated with a degree in international studies.
SPEAKING OF ACADEMICS
Utah State's men's tennis team boasts four academic all-Mountain West honors, two Mountain West Scholar-Athlete awards, 10 Utah State Whitsides Scholar-Athletes and was recently named the third most-improved team at the annual Whitesides Luncheon.
FOLLOWING THE AGGIES
Fans can follow USU's men's tennis team on Twitter @USUMensTennis, on Facebook at UtahStateMensTennis or on Instagram @USUTennis. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter at @USUAthletics, on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on Instagram at @USUAthletics.
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