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The season’s last stand

Shawn Hatjes

This weekend’s Pacific-10 Conference Championships, which begin on Thursday, will also serve as the final tournaments of the season for both the men and women’s tennis teams.
For the men, it is a bittersweet ending to a season that was filled with promise. The Ducks fell just short of making the NCAA Tournament, leaving seniors like Alexander Cornelissen particularly disappointed.

“We were ranked for a big part of the season, but in the end we didn’t pull out the wins that we should have,” Cornelissen said. “I wanted to make the NCAAs, that was my main goal from the team as a whole.”

Still, one thing the men have never lacked is effort, and that will come in handy against some of the top players in the Pac-10.

“Every match, I’ve seen people give everything they had,” Cornelissen said. “It’s not like I’ve seen people slack at all. There’s nothing more you can ask from your whole team.”

The tournament, which will take place in Ojai, Calif., is organized on an individual basis. Team scores are not counted, and players are separated into two draws: Championship and Invitational. Cornelissen, senior Ric Mortera, sophomore Jose Izquierdo and freshman Nico Bjerke will play in the Championship draw, while the rest of the team will compete in the Invitational.

Though they cannot qualify as a team, it is still possible for the men to send players to the NCAA Tournament individually. Head coach Nils Schyllander, for one, is confident that a few players could turn in stand-out performances.

“Playing a couple of seniors, I feel like they’re very motivated to go there,” Schyllander said. “Alex (Cornelissen) is playing at a level that he could beat anyone in the tournament.”

Spend one minute with Cornelissen, and it is clear that he is itching to begin play.

“It’s my last tournament ever in college,” Cornelissen said, “so I want to end on a good note, I want to go pretty far.”

The women will also wrap up their season in Ojai, and head coach Paul Reber is focused solely on giving his players more experience before a long summer.

“Really, it’s all for them,” Reber said. “The season is over, we don’t have a postseason after conference (championships). I think that’s a little difficult, but we’re just looking at next year already.”

Indeed, rather than with disappointment, Reber prefers to look at this season as a rebuilding year.

“We all feel really good about where we were and where we’ve come,” Reber said. “The group knows we’re really close, I think it’s just made them hungrier.”

For the women, heading to the Pac-10 Championships will be junior Pavlina Smatova, freshman Julia Metzger, sophomore Trudie du Toit, freshman Patricia Skowronski, junior Emmanuelle Cor, and sophomore Molly McDevitt. Each will participate in both singles and doubles matches.

Skowronski, who did not join the team until last winter, is particularly energized to make the trip to California.

“I’m pretty excited,” Skowronski said. “It’s the second individual tournament for me this season, and I’m pretty excited because it’s California, it’s going to be very nice weather.”

For the men, the tournament will last from Thursday until Sunday. The women play for one extra day, finishing their season on Monday.

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