Should coach Mattias Johansson look toward next year?

Anderson Ju (Fr.)
Anderson Ju (Fr.)

It is no secret that the UCR men’s tennis team hasn’t been performing in the realm of success for quite some time now. With the program being founded eight years ago, they have yet to reach their full potential. One of those people making that claim is new head coach Mattias Johansson. Coach Johansson’s prestigious career at Vanguard University gives some weight to his words but looking at the current season, when will his expectations be fulfilled?

In a recent interview with The Highlander, the new head coach stated that his goal was for the Highlanders to improve by 30 percent in every aspect of the game this year and upon inspection of last year’s statistics, that shouldn’t be too difficult. With last year’s overall winning percentage set at .133 in individuals and .143 for the doubles, UCR has technically achieved that goal set by Johansson, as their current winning percentage sits at .214 for singles and .200 for doubles. On the surface, it’s already looking to be a huge improvement with a 60 percent increase in wins; but overall, the team has yet to actualize some tangible improvement.

Although the management has changed, the team is exactly the same, so one looks to question the credibility of the players. The new head coach still believes that working with such a team leaves room for improvement and you would be hard pressed to argue. But with around five to six months left until some of the players graduate, it begs to question whether his efforts this late in the season will ever come to fruition.

It’s a lot to ask of the team to meld well right off the bat into the new season, as the coach and players are still getting to know each other. However it seems that this season is more of a chance for the coach to learn and strategize for the next season rather than this one. And that’s not a bad idea. It’s unfortunate for the seniors on the team as they’ll most likely never get the chance to experience the team at the height of their skill, but it’s more a decision for the program as whole rather than the current team. The coach’s 19-year tenure at Vanguard, with a record of 540-283 is impressive but translating that success to UCR will be a challenge in and of itself.

Yet the coach doesn’t seem too concerned with any of this. It already seems as if he’s looking toward the next season. Johansson stated that he wants to bring in more players from overseas as recruiting local players would be too difficult, seeing that UCLA, USC and various other established programs already reside in the area. With a fresh set of faces expected to come in next year, as well as getting better acquainted with those who will stay for the coming year, Johansson could already be formulating his strategy for the coming years.

At this point in the season, it would be almost impossible for UCR to come back and miraculously begin to mount back-to-back wins. It makes more sense to look toward the coming seasons.

It will be interesting to see what kind of talent Johansson will bring to Riverside and hopefully he sticks around to revamp the current program. With his connections and established reputation, hopefully UCR’s men’s tennis team will flourish with the incoming international players that the coach promises to recruit in the coming years.

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