Oregon is off to one of its best starts in school history
Cracking into the top four of the Pac-12 men’s tennis standings is a difficult thing to do, and even more so for schools located outside the state of California.
The “California Four” — California, Stanford, UCLA and USC — dominates the conference year in and year out. It has proved a tall task for any other team to unseat any of those four schools over the past two decades. Since 2000, Washington is the only non-California school to capture a Pac-12 title — it did so in 2005.
As the preseason comes to a close, this year’s Oregon Ducks squad appears to have as good a shot as any team in recent memory at breaking this trend.
The Ducks are currently ranked 21st in the nation and have reached as high as 20th in the ITA Collegiate Rankings. It is the highest ranking Oregon has ever had. The Ducks boast an a 11-1 record that includes six wins over teams ranked No. 67 or better.
Oregon head coach Nils Schyllander is adamant that rankings mean nothing this time of the year.
“It’s still a cliché: one at a time,” Oregon head coach Nils Schyllander said. “You’re only as good as your last outing.”
“But obviously winning is good… This is a great group of guys. They go about it the right way.”
Schyllander’s team has made a living on grinding out come-from-behind victories and finishing matches strongly. The Ducks found themselves in early deficits against No. 46 Louisville and No. 50 Indiana, but they bounced back each time and won 6-1 and 7-0, respectively.
“Once we get rolling, we were like an avalanche,” Schyllander said following the win over Indiana. “We were not going to be stopped.”
Part of the Ducks’ success has come from having a rock-solid doubles crew. Oregon duo Jayson Amos and Armando Soemarno have been the Ducks’ unsung heroes this season while playing in the No. 1 doubles spot. A relatively un-heralded pair, Amos and Soemarno are currently the No. 37 ranked doubles team in the nation. They are 12-2 on the season.
The success of Amos and Soemarno provides Schyllander the benefit of dropping former No. 1 pair Daan Maasland and Simon Stevens into the No. 2 spot, where they have posted a 10-2 record. Thomas Laurent and and Cormac Clissold, two players who only started playing doubles together in January, have won their last six matches in the No. 3 spot.
In singled, the Ducks have found consistency in all six spots of their lineup. The emergence of freshman Thomas Laurent has given the Ducks a true No. 1 player who can match almost any player in the conference skill-wise. Maasland, who earned second team All-Pac-12 honors last spring, has benefited as well, posting a 3-0 record when playing in the No. 2 spot. Schyllander has rotated Maasland and Laurent back and forth in the one and two spots throughout the season.
Amos, who posted the second most single season victories in Oregon history last year, has been one of the Ducks’ cornerstones. He has a chance to top his 24 wins from last season. He owns an 18-5 overall record while playing in the No. 2, 3 and 4 spots.
The Ducks are undefeated at home thus far and have benefited immensely from an insurgence of fan support. Schyllander said the team has started referring to the Oregon Student Tennis Center as “The Barn”, and that they are enjoying their newly-found home court advantage.
The Ducks have two more preseason matches, before facing UCLA in their conference-opener on March 25. No matter how much success they’ve had to this point, the Ducks know that’s when their season really begins.
“We know it and we’re looking forward to it,” Maasland said following Oregon’s win over Minnesota.
Follow Jarrid Denney on Twitter @jarrid_denney
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