Thanks to a hot start that saw them win 19 of their first 21 matches and debut at No. 24 in the national rankings, Utah Tennis found themselves in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997.
Under the leadership of fourth-year head coach and former Ute Roeland Brateanu, Utah tennis has returned to its winning ways. The 34-20 record over the past two seasons matches the highest win-percentage since the early 1980’s and this year, earned the Utes a trip to Norman, Oklahoma to face No. 14 OU at the NCAA regionals.
The Sooners are coming off of a Round of Sixteen appearance last season and looked poised to replicate that performance this past weekend. OU took control early, as the formidable OU duo of Alex Bakshi and Jake Van Emburgh downed Utes Russell Benkamin and Randy Cory 6-4. That was as close as the Utes would get all day and the Sooners went on to win each of the following matchups in doubles and singles.
No. 44 Bakshi/Van Embergh def. Cory/Benkaim, 6-4
Woolley/Weverink vs Oetzbach/Bertsch, unf.
Calvo/Tsorotiotis def. Hankuliyev/Little, 6-1
Alex Bakshi def. Dan Little, 6-2, 6-2
Jake van Emburgh def. David Micevski, 6-1, 6-3
Santiago Sierra vs. Ferran Calvo, unf.
Egbert Weverink vs. Adrian Oetzbach, unf.
Randy Cory vs. Jochen Bertsch, unf.
Stefano Tsorotiotis def. Slava Shainyan, 6-1, 7-6
It wasn’t the finish that Brateanu and the Utes wanted, but brighter days look to be on the horizon for the program.
“We competed like lions today and made it a match, but came up a little short against a very good Sooner team” Brateanu said in a release. “We learned what it was like to be back on the big stage and will take these valuable experiences into next season.”
The 19-win season marks the highest win total in program history and the 17-2 mark in non-conference play shows that the Utes just have to take one more step in order to get over the hump and compete in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 Conference. With a healthy return of underclassmen and a strong recruiting class incoming, the Utes will attempt to take that next step in the fall.
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