Oregon gears up for 2016 NCAA Tournament
The Oregon men’s tennis program is playing the waiting game. The team completed its run in the Pac-12 Championship one week ago, and now, their future in the hands of a selection committee.
The 64-team men’s tennis NCAA Championship is similar to the one used for basketball. The single elimination format places pressure on teams from across the country as they battle for the national title. It begins on May 13 and 14, and continues on May 19 for the 16 remaining teams.
The Ducks appear to be a lock for the tournament. They completed the season with 18 wins — their highest win total in two decades — and they are currently ranked No. 35 in the country. But who it will face in the first round is what keeps the team’s future in limbo, as the brackets are not released until May 3.
The players focus may stray toward the impending decision, but head coach Nils Schyllander is attempting to keep the players fixated on the present.
“We are trying to stay sharp,” said Schyllander. “We finally have a period where we are not competing, so it is a good time to get back in the weight room and get the lungs and legs back in shape.”
Keeping the players in midseason form while also conditioning like it is preseason is the harmony that Oregon is looking for.
“Improving like we have been should be our main focus,” said junior Jayson Amos. “If we can keep that trend going and work hard this week, then maybe next week we can focus and get more specific.”
The Ducks’ preparation will get them set for the matches, but nothing can replace experience. Only Amos and senior Daan Maasland have experience playing in the NCAA Championship. It came two seasons ago when Oregon faced North Carolina State in the first round, losing 4-2.
“I think the fact that we were out there dealing with the excitement of making it [in 2014], it helps us to stay calm” said Maasland.
Without the experience of the national scale, other players will have to rely on their experience playing in the Pac-12 Championship, which is also a single elimination tournament. Oregon was able to advance past the first round with a 4-0 victory over Arizona, but a 4-0 loss to No. 27 Stanford in the second round ended Oregon’s Pac-12 title hopes.
“It is like playing with your backs against the wall. We knew we needed to beat Arizona to get in the tournament and we responded well,” Schyllander stated when speaking on the importance of the Pac-12 Championship.
Oregon was close to defeating top teams this season. A 4-3 loss to No. 8 USC was the closest Oregon got to breaking through the seal placed on the conference by the California universities. The Ducks won the doubles point against USC and No. 6 UCLA while posting a 16 game doubles winning streak during the regular season.
With the success of the regular season comes higher expectations for what’s next. Oregon feels like it can do more than just win one game, but make serious damage.
“A couple years ago, success was just making it. This year it is going to be different,” said Amos.
Rising expectations do not scare Schyllander, as he is prepping his team for only one goal.
“I feel like we can, on any given day, beat anyone right now … we are going there to win,” said Schyllander.
Easier said than done, no doubt, as every team will be striving to end their season on a victory.
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.