Following their statement 4-3 win at home over Air Force, the UC Riverside men’s tennis team hoped to continue their stellar play on the road as they embarked on a five match road trip to Hurricane, Utah and Las Vegas, Nev. that would span over four days.
“Last couple of years, we haven’t played too well during this Las Vegas trip,” head coach Mattias Johansson said over the phone on Wednesday, adding, “That’s actually been kind of a wake-up call for us when we return back home.”
Just like they do every year, the team will face off in weather conditions different from what they’re used to here at home.
“(Elevation and air pressure) is a big factor, especially over in Southern Utah where the ball flies more. Our players will make adjustments, whether they tighten their strings or add more topspin or slice to keep the ball in play,” Johansson added.
This did affect the Highlanders in their first match against Southern Utah, as inclement weather caused the match to be moved to a neutral location and SUU wasn’t phased by the last minute change and won 5-2.
The Thunderbirds snagged the doubles point, as well as the first two singles matches to extend their lead to 3-0. UC Riverside still had four players on court, all pushing their matches to a third set. No comeback ensued this time around, as the two teams split the matches, for a 5-2 SUU victory.
Freshman Andreas Whelan-Merediz won in three sets with a score of 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Junior Gilbert Chung also went the distance going 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
From here, the team travelled to Vegas to play against the University of Hawai’i, where the Rainbow Warriors bested the Highlanders 4-2.
Failing to convert on multiple match points in doubles proved to be the difference maker, as the entire match would’ve ended differently had UCR capitalized.
Court one had the team of sophomore Filip Engstrom and junior Nabil Abdallah leading for most of the match, but the duo ultimately fell 6-7. Court three saw a new pairing of senior Kyle McCann and Whelen-Merediz walk off with a 7-6 victory.
For singles, Chung recorded a straight set victory of 6-1, 6-3, while Abdallah ended the day as a bright spot by defeating the No. 124 ranked player in the nation with a score of 6-1, 0-6, 6-4.
UCR also played doubleheader on Saturday against host UNLV and New Mexico State.