Men’s tennis looking to end season strong
The 2014 men’s tennis season has been built on streaks.
The season began with four straight wins, but quickly turned south when the Rebels were plagued with injuries. Senior Tamas Batyi struggled with a shin injury, Ace Matias battled tendinitis and an ailing shoulder and freshman Jakob Amilon missed five straight matches with mononucleosis.
UNLV lost all five matches that Amilon sat out, and everything snowballed from there. The Rebels went on a seven-match losing streak, and fell to a 4-7 on the season.
“We’ve had a lot of setbacks this season, especially in the beginning,” said head coach Owen Hambrook.
Once Amilon returned to the court, things began falling into place.
It sparked a six-match win streak, and the team has now won eight of its last nine. UNLV’s record now stands at 12-8 overall, and 2-1 in the Mountain West.
“He came back and now our team is starting to click,” Matias said. “Now we have a stable lineup and we have confidence in each other, so we’re playing really well.”
The Rebels currently sit at third in the Mountain West and are behind only San Diego State and Boise State, who are both undefeated in conference play.
“Finally we are getting healthy,” Hambrook said. “We don’t have much depth this year but we are finally healthy and hopefully moving in the right direction.”
Other players have been forced to step into larger roles for UNLV. Denys Pume, a junior transfer from Oklahoma State, has risen all the way to court two.
Pume has a team-best 15-4 record in singles, as well as a 25-8 record overall this spring. He has won nine straight singles matches, and hasn’t lost since Mar. 9 at Cal Poly.
Matias is still the undeniable leader, having played at court one all season long. The junior has put on a clinic over the last month, winning nine of his last 10 matches, all of which coming in straight sets.
“Last year I had a really good year,” he said. “People thought that was probably a fluke or something. This year has built consistency in my game and how I play college tennis. This is to prove to everyone that I’m consistent.”
Matias has racked up a record of 17-9 to bring his career record at UNLV to 41-17 in singles play. Behind the play of Matias and Pume, the team is on track to finish in the Mountain West, and compete for a conference title in Fresno, Calif. on April 24-27.
UNLV upset conference rival No. 68 New Mexico in its last home match of the year, 5-2, proving they can hang with the upper-echelon teams in the conference.
“Since the conference tournament is coming up we have confidence that we can actually win it,” Matias said. “That gives us belief in ourselves.”
The Rebels now head to the site of that tournament to take on Fresno State (10-8) in a conference matchup.
UNLV has yet to win a match away from Las Vegas this season, and will play its final three matches on the road.
“We’ve obviously done well at home, but away is where our challenges mostly are,” Matias said.