Aztecs drop first matches of season against Cal Poly, Southern California

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Courtesy of Jacob Dye, Intercollegiate Tennis Association and Getty Images

San Diego State men’s tennis freshman Judson Blair swings at a ball during the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association Masters On Oct. 9-11 at the Barnes Tennis Court in San Diego.

by Jason Freund, Staff Writer

After a long hiatus due to the pandemic, San Diego State men’s tennis opened up collegiate play this past weekend. The Aztecs dropped both weekend matches to Cal Poly on Feb. 4 at the Aztec Tennis Center and No. 1 USC on Feb. 7 in Los Angeles.

The two matches were the first bout of action SDSU has had in nearly 11 months.

Game 1 vs. Cal Poly (Feb. 4)

Playing at home, the Aztecs fell to a veteran Cal Poly team 5-2.

The Aztecs drop to 10-4 lifetime against the Mustangs and have suffered their fourth straight season-opening dual match defeat.

Despite the loss, head coach Gene Carswell said he saw room for growth among his team after the match.

“It was a hard-fought match. We definitely showed some rust on the court after not playing as a unit for a while,” Carswell said. “We learned a lot about ourselves and we learned how to improve moving forward.”

Johannes Seeman, an SDSU sophomore transfer out of Fresno State, teamed up with senior Aaro Pollanen in doubles. However, the duo was unable to outlast the duo of Cal Poly redshirt senior Antoine Noel and redshirt freshman Joe Leather, falling in the No.1 position 7-6 (5).

SDSU graduate senior Rafael Gonzales Almazan and senior Ignacio Martinez met a similar fate, falling to redshirt sophomore Gary Vardanyan and freshman Noah Berry 6-1 on the second court.

Making their collegiate debut was the SDSU freshmen tandem of Judson Blair and Roni Rikonnen. Despite putting up a strong effort, the redshirt junior team of Alex Stater and Roman Shenkiryk vanquished the upstart freshmen with a 6-3 victory.

The two freshmen were unable to find victory in singles play as well. Slotted into the fifth position, Blair fell to Vardanyan 6-3, 6-1 while redshirt freshman Fernando Fonseca dispatched Rikonnen 6-4, 6-3 on the sixth court.

Regarding Blair and Rikonnen, Carswell acknowledged their effort in their collegiate debuts but noted they had work to do in the future.

“On the court, they had their chances but they won’t get many free points against Cal Poly,” Carswell said. “As they see more matches, they will continue to adapt and improve.”

Only two Aztecs found victory in singles play as Seeman outlasted Noel 7-5, 7-6 (5) while Gonzales Almazan and Leather went back-and-forth in a three-set match, which Gonzales Almazan won 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

SDSU will be on the road for a Feb. 7 match against a USC Trojans team that is the No.1 ranked team in the nation.

Game 2 vs. USC (Feb. 7)

After putting up a contented fight, the Aztecs were handed their second loss of the season by an undefeated USC, who are the top-ranked team in the nation.

SDSU fell into an early hole in doubles play as Blair and Rikonnen were blown away by redshirt freshman Colter Smith and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate 6-1 on the third court.

The Aztecs lost the doubles point as Gonzales Almazan and Martinez couldn’t keep up with junior Bradley Frye and sophomore Stefan Dostanic on the second court, falling 6-4.

The Trojans continued to dominate in singles play. USC picked up an automatic victory after SDSU was forced to surrender a match on court six with only five Aztecs available.

The Trojans’ first true victory came from Dostanic at the No. 2 position, dispatching Pollanen 6-3, 6-0. Pollanen put up a spirited outfit against Dostanic, who was ranked 104th nationally in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll.

Facing defeat, SDSU needed a come-from-behind victory to stay in contention. Martinez dropped his singles match 6-2, 6-2 against USC junior Mor Bulis thus sealing the Trojans’ victory.

SDSU will get the chance to get its first win of the season against Loyola Marymount University on Feb. 13 at home.

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