Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
After commanding wins over renowned Texas colleges, the Eagles fell just short against Texas-Tyler University last weekend, breaking their 15-match winning streak.
The Eagles split the road trip, defeating Tyler Junior College Friday before falling to Texas-Tyler in a 5-4 struggle. The Lady Eagles followed suit and did the men one better, defeating both McMurry University and Trinity University on Friday 8-1, 7-2; the next day they came up short against NCAA Division II-ranked Abilene Christian University 8-1.
The Oklahoma Christian University men’s team went into the weekend with three victories already under their belt, one against No. 11 Abilene Christian. The Eagles had handily defeated Tyler Junior College in an exhibition the weekend before, but senior Martin Poboril stayed wary of the juco powerhouse.
“It’s good that now we have got some matches in, so the experience and everything will help,” Poboril said. “We were a little tight — I think we’ve gotten more relaxed — but I think this match will not be the same.”
Individually, the match certainly took a different turn; junior Bruno Tiberti and sophomore Nicolas Auruccio both struggled and lost in three sets, and Poboril fell in straight sets. At the end of the day the Eagles came out on top, however, sweeping the doubles action and the rest of the singles matches to win 6-3.
As junior Julio Pulido and the Eagles began to warm up for the match against Texas-Tyler the following day, they learned the Patriots’ lineup might be tougher than expected.
“When we were there, they told us they recruit really good guys from Division I—so it was tough for us,” Pulido said. “We could have won, we could have lost, but we lost.”
Despite the unexpectedly strong lineup and the team’s rough traveling times for the season — the first home game isn’t until April 4 — the Eagles fought hard and took an early 2-1 lead in doubles.
The changed lineup for Texas-Tyler showed in the singles action; though the No. 5 and 6 matches were won in straight sets, complements of Pulido (6-2, 6-3) and Auruccio (6-3, 6-0), they were the last matches Oklahoma Christian would take.
“At No. 1 the other guys started playing unbelievable,” Pulido said. “They couldn’t miss a ball.”
Though the defeat ended the Eagles’ third-longest winning streak, Tiberti noted that, if anything, the Eagles are more ready than before to push past the opposition.
“At some point, I thought it was good to lose at this point in the season — now we don’t want to lose anymore,” Tiberti said. “Now we’re going to work harder and we’re going to push more to avoid this.”
Something that also caught Tiberti’s attention was the size of their Texas foe. Oklahoma Christian senior Paulo Roessle lightly injured himself during a match, pulling a leg muscle. With a team the Eagles’ size, however, there are no replacements.
“That stuff happens,” Tiberti said. “We don’t have anybody else, so if anybody gets hurt, we’re done. The other team had 18 players. We had six. It makes a difference; you cannot get hurt, and you have that pressure on you.”
Assistant coach Renardy Guelfi sees the pressure as a way to fuel the team towards their ultimate focus for the season.
“It was a tough loss,” Guelfi said. “That should only bring us more motivation to work harder and harder to achieve the level we want to be before our main goal—nationals.”
The Lady Eagles also faced a size mismatch, cruising to easy 8-1, 7-2 victories over McMurry and Trinity before getting halted by No. 3 ranked Abilene Christian. Oklahoma Christian found itself throwing an almost entirely new team into a new conference as well.
Junior Gabriela Carrillo, one of two returning players from last season, isn’t fazed by the large shift.
“It is really new because the rules are different, the teams are different and we aren’t playing with the same team we did last season,” Carrillo said. “But it’s exciting at the same time.”
Though the majority of the Lady Eagles couldn’t break five games in their match against Abilene Christian, junior and No. 1 singles matchup Barbora Bozkova claimed the solo victory for Oklahoma Christian — defeating No. 5-ranked Julia Mongin 6-1, 6-7, 10-5. The super tiebreaker victory earned Bozkova the Heartland women’s tennis Player of the Week award.
The Eagles play the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith today at noon.