UCR men’s tennis has had a 2016 season worth being very proud of. The team has totaled 13 wins on the season, two more than the previous school record. However, the record for season wins is hardly on any player or coach’s mind because the conference tournament kicks off on Wednesday, April 27 and playing well in that tournament is the team’s ultimate goal. Head Coach Mattias Johansson intends to waste no time in preparing for the tournament, and he wants to begin with ramping up practice intensity now that the regular season has concluded.
However, before the team jumped into assault mode for the impending playoffs, they took a moment to honor their seniors before their match against Lewis-Clark State College on Monday, April 18. Senior Day has always been something Johansson has done “off and on” but he really felt this group of seniors truly deserved a send-off ceremony for their final home match. Fourth-year Calvin Ngo believed it was a great way to end his senior year and fourth-year Julian Ruffin agreed. Fifth-year Sean Robles described it as “having all the memories of my time here flash before my eyes.”
Once the pleasantries were dispatched, Johansson began to ramp up the intensity of practice for the ensuing week. Johansson implemented his personal favorite regimen of a weeklong conditioning training he likes to call “hell week.” This regimen is indeed worthy of the name as Johansson says this type of conditioning pushes the boundaries of what is believed to be healthy and unhealthy to get the players into a higher level of conditioning. The team concluded every practice of hell week by “literally crawling out of here (courts),” said Johansson. He added, “It’s actually funny to watch them hit after this week because nothing (on their body) works.”
Despite the intensity of practice that would put an average Joe in the hospital, the players responded tremendously well as Johansson noted, “Throughout the hard training the guys were smiling at each other and laughing wondering if it could get worse,” and they know this extra hard work will be the difference-maker in a tough playoff match on the 27th.
Johannson and the team still do not know who they are going to play in the first round and that does not bother them at all. Johansson wants “to make his guys’ legs so heavy this week that when playoffs come around they will be light and they can play against anyone.” His team is on board, as Ngo mentions, “Guys are looking sharper out here. Everyone is making strides to get better.” Every member on this team is ready to do whatever training it takes to get themselves into the best possible shape to win. Now that the Highlanders have been through hell and back, they are ready to play some excellent tennis come the start of the championships on Wednesday.