Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Proving their mettle as a top small-college tennis program, the newly ranked No. 10 Eagles and No. 9 Lady Eagles fought hard to pull out 5-4, 6-3 victories over Midwestern State University.
Oklahoma Christian University, coming off an NAIA championship and a 23-3 season, were ineligible for NCAA Division II pre-season rankings this year due to what the Intercollegiate Tennis Association deemed ‘insufficient data.’
“It feels great to be ranked in the top 10 of the nation,” assistant coach Renardy Guelfi said. “The guys have been working hard and deserve it.”
Senior Martin Poboril echoed Guelfi’s sentiment, but pointed out that the ranking is just a number.
“It doesn’t really change much,” Poboril said. “I mean, it’s really nice to have this nice ranking at the start, but it’s just a ranking. It doesn’t say anything. You work hard and just hope that you get higher.”
Junior Barbora Bozkova and freshman Gisela Castany overcame Taylor Coffman and Sarita Adhikary at the No. 1 doubles spot, 9-8. Oklahoma Christian’s No. 2 doubles duo, junior Maryfer Abreu Roman and sophomore Gabriela Carrillo, also edged by in a 9-8 tiebreaker.
“Coach told us to take care of business,” Abreu Roman said. “They were a pretty good school, and it’s a regional team, so it was a good win.”
The singles matches found the Lady Eagles hitting their stride; Bozkova, Carrillo and Abreu Roman rolled past their opponents in straight sets.
Castany played to seal the sixth match and another mark in the win column for Oklahoma Christian.
“They handled the pressure pretty well, and it gave them some confidence to play strong in singles,” Guelfi said. “It is important to play well under pressure since the match can be decided on those moments.”
The men also took the lead from the doubles matches; the sophomore pair of Nicolas Auruccio and Julio Pulido defeated Midwestern State’s Kyle Davidson and Franko Silijeg in the No. 2 spot. Oklahoma Christian’s undefeated doubles duo, senior Paulo Roessle and freshman Josip Smoljan, extended their streak to seven with an 8-5 victory over Tomas Grejtak and Austin Crawford.
In singles, junior Bruno Tiberti and Poboril both won their matches in straight sets, never letting their opponents take more than four games.
Though the Eagles lost the bottom of their singles lineup, Pulido stepped in at the No. 4 position to clinch the victory for the Eagles, downing Midwestern State’s Crawford 6-3, 6-4. Oklahoma Christian is now 6-1 for the season. While the gauntlet of matches over spring break could be the toughest yet, as the team faces top-ranked Barry University and Lynn University, Tiberti continues to hammer home a message of hope.
“If we’re ready and we don’t get scared of winning, anything can happen,” Tiberti said. “Last year against Fresno in the finals we had no chance, if you went spot by spot. I was like, ‘okay guys, we are all screwed. All of us.’ In doubles we won two matches, saving two match points. Anything can happen in tennis . . . that’s what I’m telling the other guys; do your best, because you don’t know what the other guy is thinking. He can choke, he can cramp out of nowhere, so always stay in the match and play your best.”
The Lady Eagles play at Southern Nazarene tomorrow, and both teams are on hiatus until the 16th.
After the break, the Eagles return to play at home for the first time this season on April 4.