After hosting the Aztec Fall Invitational last weekend, San Diego State men’s tennis travels up north to play in the 2015 USTA/ITA Regional Championship this weekend in Malibu.
The championship is hosted at Pepperdine University, adjacent to the sunny beaches in Malibu. Schools from the Southwest region, such as No. 7 USC and No. 15 UCLA, are also playing in this event.
The Southern California area is known for consistently churning out top tennis talent, and this year is no exception. Playing in one of the most competitive regions in the country, SDSU head coach Gene Carswell believes his squad is more than capable to handle the competition.
“It’s all going to be tough, so we’re looking forward to the overall strength of our region,” he said. “Having to match up with some of the best, that’s where we’re at. I include ourselves in that mix. We’re one of the best, too.”
Carswell was absent for the majority of the tournament at SDSU as he was watching redshirt-senior Freddy Gelbrich and juniors Hendrik Jebens and Milen Ianakiev play in the ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The All-American Championships featured athletes from all around the country. After a qualification round, the tournament switches to a round of 64 and moves on as a regular tournament from the main draw.
The German duo of Gelbrich and Jebens are ranked 31st nationally as a doubles pair, and while Gelbrich was ranked higher in singles at No. 71, it was No. 112 Jebens who stole the show for the Aztecs.
Jebens is the first Aztec to advance to the main draw since 2008. He was also the only Mountain West athlete in the tournament.
“When I qualified and beat (senior Michael Rinaldi) from Florida State it was just a great feeling. Even more than that, the two matches in the main draw in consolation to represent San Diego State at the tournament felt great,” Jebens said.
Jebens also cites these experiences in helping with preparation for the upcoming tournament.
“I just feel very confident in competing,” Jebens said. “Especially in a sport like tennis. It’s really important to me to have a lot of match experience so I definitely feel great going into the regionals.”
Hailing from Stuttgart, Germany, Jebens has competed professionally, as well.
While Jebens, Gelbrich and Ianakiev were halfway across the country, the rest of the team also found success at their own invitational.
Freshman Raul de la Torre found the most success on a weekend that had temperatures in the triple digits, winning the consolation bracket for singles. The doubles team of sophomore Santiago Cevallos and junior Jonas Meizner fell in the second match of consolation.
The next step for the team is to keep on learning and improving through the tourney in Malibu.
“When you come into a team like ours, you can’t stay stagnant. You’ve got to improve and get better,” Carswell said. “Throughout the fall we want to see steady progression. (We want to improve the) little things within our individual game that’s going to help our overall team as we head into the spring.”
The championships start Thursday, Oct. 15 and continue on through Oct. 19.