Sophomore earns second straight award, team hosts Idaho
The men’s tennis team is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent history, and will be one of the first teams on campus to kick off Scarlet & Gray Weekend with their biggest match to date.
Their dominance at Fertitta Tennis Complex will be tested Friday when they take on the defending Mountain West Conference (MWC) Champion, Boise State University.
Not only will the match take center stage as the opening contest for UNLV Athletics’ big event, but it will have significant ramifications for the team’s fate late in the season.
The Rebels and Broncos are deadlocked in the MWC standings, and this match will go a long way to deciding the pecking order of the conference heading into the season-ending tournament.
The Rebels are riding high heading into this contest, coming off two of their most impressive road victories of the season.
The team felt that the experience they gained on previous road trips served them well this time around.
“The first time was like gaining experience, especially with the team chemistry,” Ace Matias said. “So when we went up there we were more prepared, that’s for sure.”
Gilad Berman was an unknown heading into the year, a freshman from Israel who no one outside of the program had many expectations for.
He has since shown that he is a legitimate threat, accumulating a 17-3 record this season. His play has warranted a promotion from the fourth court to court two, which is reserved for more talented competition.
“I think that just overall as a team we’ve improved through the year. Certain guys are just stepping up and playing better,” assistant coach James Wilson said. “Gilad [Berman] has really improved, he’s really done well. He’s now moved up to number two.”
In addition to Berman’s emergence this year, Matias has helped carry the team throughout the season, and was rewarded on Tuesday with a national ranking for the first time in his career.
He made his debut in the International Tennis Association individual rankings this week at No.113 and was named MWC Player of the Week on Wednesday for the second consecutive week and third time this season.
“Ace has just been phenomenal; he’s exceeded [expectations],” Wilson said. “He’s made the most out of his game, and he’s really playing at a high level. We’re just kind of counting on him almost every match.”
Matias will face off against one of the top players in the country on Friday. Boise State’s 2012 All-Mountain West player Andrew Bettles heads into the match with an 18-5 record this season, and is currently ranked No. 33 in the nation.
“They are always tough, and they are playing well,” head coach Owen Hambrook said. “Last year they beat us up there pretty bad.”
Last season on April 20, the Rebels were blanked 7-0 by the Broncos in Boise, Idaho.
Despite the defeat still fresh in his memory, Hambrook insists that there is no revenge factor heading into the match on Friday.
“I wouldn’t say revenge, but it’s a good opportunity. They’re ranked quite a bit higher than us,” he said.
The Broncos sit at No. 46 in the latest ITA rankings, 13 spots above UNLV. The teams will face off at noon on Friday and admission is free to the public.