Men’s tennis dominates east coast trip with final shutout win against Holy Cross University

The UC Riverside men’s tennis team dominated their four-day east coast campaign as they won every match that they participated in. The Highlanders improved their season record to 10-5 overall and established a six-game winning streak. The trip consisted of five matches across Maryland, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts between Thursday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 17. The Highlanders beat Coppin State, Siena College, Saint Francis College, Quinnipiac University and finished the trip with a third shutout win at Holy Cross University. 

The HIghlanders started their trip with a 7-0 shutout victory against Coppin State (0-3) in Watkins Park, Maryland. There, they almost went undefeated in singles, losing only one set out of the five played on Friday, Feb. 14. 

On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Highlanders traveled to Loudinville, New York to defeat Siena College (4-6) with another 7-0 shutout victory. Senior Gilbert Chung, senior Nabil Abdallah and freshman brothers Jayson and Micheal Blando secured the doubles points in flights two and three. Blando and freshman Nikita Horunzhy won their matches to sweep the singles matches as well. 

On Sunday, Feb. 16 the Highlanders only finished with one doubles loss to Saint Francis College (5-7) in Brooklyn, New York and bounced back with a total sweep of singles. Freshman Daniel Velek won the No. 4 singles match, dominating every set. The final score was 6-1, continuing a perfect winning streak for the trip. 

On the same day, the Highlanders continued their travels to Hamden, Connecticut and defeated Quinnipiac University (1-5) 4-3. They secured the win through establishing an early lead, going 4-0 in singles. 

The Highlanders traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts for the final match of the trip against Holy Cross University (5-4) on Monday, Feb. 17. The Highlanders received standout performances from Velek and sophomore Andreas Whelan-Merediz who earned the 6-0 win on the doubles side. The sibling duo of Jayson and Micheal Blando fought for the number two spot with a 6-3 win that helped the Highlanders sweep the doubles. 

Chung ended the trip with an impressive 5-0 singles record. “In order to have success on the road, it has to be a great team effort. Different guys need to step up at different times, and that’s what we got. Obviously, a couple of guys did go 5-0 in singles (Chung and Velek) so they led the pack, but again, it was a great team effort that made us go 5-0 on a rather brutal schedule on the road,” Head Coach Mattias Johansson said in an interview with The Highlander. 

This road trip showed growth for the team after their early season Arizona trip where the athletes struggled with the tough travel schedule and back-to-back matches. “This is new territory for UCR men’s tennis since we have never been undefeated on a long road swing before. Hopefully it gave us a lot of self confidence and a continued willingness to work hard at practice” he said. “As soon as you become comfortable with the level you perform at, it may go south very quickly, so stay humble with increased confidence and just practice hard and refocus on the task ahead. Obviously the guys want to keep the winning streak going and perform well at R House,” Johansson added. 

After a short break, the Highlanders will continue the action on Tuesday, Mar. 3 against Villanova University (3-2) at the SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif.