After a two match road trip, the No. 12 ranked Oregon men’s tennis team returned home to face Middle Tennessee on Thursday night for its final non-conference match of the season. Oregon got down early, but fought back after Thomas Laurent ignited the team to a 4-2 victory while becoming the all-time wins leader in Oregon history with his 6-3, 7-5 win.
Laurent's win, the 94th of his career, moved him past former teammate Jayson Amos.
“Well that’s cool,” said No. 5 ranked Laurent, of his milestone. “I was just worried that the team was going to lose... It’s cool, but we have more important stuff this weekend. Once we are done with the season we can look at the records.”
While appreciative of the milestone, similar to Laurent, head coach Nils Schyllander’s focus is elsewhere and sees the record as a weight off his player’s shoulders.
“Obviously he’s going to be very missed, but I’m happy for him,” Schyllander said. “People have been talking so much about this record and now it’s behind him and he can just focus on playing on Saturday.”
With junior Ty Gentry out of the doubles lineup due to illness, the Ducks were forced to switch up their matchups as Laurent paired with Riki Oshima and Joshua Charlton played with Emmanuel Coste. The new look proved challenging for the Ducks early as Laurent and Oshima got Oregon’s sole doubles win, 6-1, while the other pairs both fell 6-4.
“I thought the new teams had practiced great in doubles this week so I was a little bit surprised actually to be honest with you,” Schyllander said.
Gentry’s absence was short lived, however, as he returned for singles play. Despite clearly not being at full strength, he earned a hard fought 7-5, 7-6 win for one of Oregon’s four singles points.
“He’s been nails all season,” Schyllander said. “He hasn’t really had any reps this week so this was his almost first practice this week and it was in a match situation so I’m more than proud of him.”
Gentry’s win closely resembled many of the Duck’s other matches. With nothing to lose, the 8-8 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders made Oregon work for every point. After Charles Roberts fell 6-1, 6-1, to Pavel Motl, the Ducks were facing a 0-2 deficit.
Following Laurent earning the first point, the impressive and still undefeated freshman, Joshua Charlton, edged out a tight 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win verse Chris Edge. Next came Gentry, and finally Oshima, who battled back for a 2-6, 7-6, 6-3 clinching win. Coste’s match was unfinished at 6-7, 6-3, 2-3.
As the Ducks climb in the national rankings each week, the competition slowly ramps up with teams looking to upset the now top-15 team. Coach Schyllander is confident the rankings won’t go to his players’ heads, however.
“We have a bigger target on our backs and everybody gets up for playing us right now,” he said. “We’re 12-1 so I don’t think we need to adjust too much. We just need to rest up and get ready for a really good husky team.”
Saturday marks the beginning of Pac-12 play as the Ducks host their rival from Washington in a two p.m. match.