No. 50 Utah State men's tennis (14-8, 5-0 MW) remained undefeated in Mountain West play following a 4-2 victory over Fresno State (14-11, 3-1 MW) on Sunday at the Sports Academy and Racquet Club. The victory marked the second undefeated home season in program history. The Aggies finished the year 8-0 at home, also marking the first undefeated home season during the Mountain West era.
"Just an awesome, awesome effort from all our guys," head coach James Wilson said. "They did a really good job. They came out, played good doubles, but really showed a lot of toughness, especially at No. 2 doubles, from down a break, broke back. Then, they were serving to stay in the match, were down love-40, and then found a way to hold to get it to a tiebreaker. Then, in the tiebreaker, just played real aggressive, played to win, and that was awesome.
"Jaime's effort was huge at No. 1 singles. To be down 5-1 in the second set, to come back and win that second set gave us a huge boost of momentum. Sergiu (Bucur) to win in the third set was awesome. He showed a lot of toughness. Overall, everybody showed a lot of grit and a lot of toughness. Even the guys that lost, they battled and that was really, really great to see."
In doubles, senior Jaime Barajas and freshman Jose Carvajal lost, 2-6, at the No. 1 spot to freshman Cem Erturk and junior Mantas Bugailiskis. Freshmen Felipe Acosta and Addy Vashistha then won, 6-3, at the No. 3 spot against senior Youseff Hassan and sophomore Zdenek Derkas. The point came down to the No. 2 spot where senior Andrew Nakajima and freshman Valdemar Holm faced senior Xander Veys and sophomore Cagatay Soke. The match entered a tiebreaker where the Aggies earned the 7-6 (4) victory.
Prior to singles, Barajas and Nakajima were honored during Senior Day recognizing their careers at Utah State. To this point in the season, Barajas' 145 combined wins rank No. 1 all-time in school history. Barajas is also No. 1 in all-time singles wins with 84 and third all-time in doubles victories with 61. Barajas was named the 2016 Mountain West Player of the Year and became the first Aggie to be ranked by the ITA in singles when he came in at No. 123 in the 2016-17 ITA preseason poll. Barajas has earned seven Mountain West Player of the Week honors, two Utah State student-athlete of the week awards and was named all-Mountain West in singles in 2016. Nakajima's 90 combined wins rank No. 8 all-time, his 53 doubles wins put him at sixth all-time and his 37 singles wins tie for No. 15. Off the court, Nakajima has earned Academic all-Mountain West in 2016 and 2017, as well as being named a USU Whitesides Scholar-Athlete in 2017.
In singles, Erturk won, 6-1, 6-4, at the No. 4 spot against Holm, evening the match at one point apiece. At the No. 1 spot, Barajas won his first set, 6-4, against Veys but fell behind, 1-5, in the second set before winning six-straight games to earn the 7-5 victory. Sophomore Sergiu Bucur posted a three set victory, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, at the No. 2 spot over Bugailiskis. Junior Samuel Serrano lost his first set, 2-6, but came back to win the second, 7-5, at the No. 3 spot against Derkas. However, Derkas won the match after a 6-1 win in the third set. Acosta and junior Jeremy Moser competed at the No. 5 spot where Acosta won the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (3). Acosta never dropped a game in the second set to clinch the match with a 6-0 win.
Utah State wraps up the regular season with a pair of road matches starting with New Mexico (12-8, 2-1 MW) on Friday, April 13, at 5 p.m. MT, in Albuquerque. The regular season finale will be in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where USU takes on Air Force (10-11, 0-3 MW) on Sunday, April 15, at noon. Going into the final weekend of Mountain West play, the Aggies will be looking for their third-consecutive regular season league title.
Ashley Springer is a student at Utah State University studying journalism and communication. Springer is an intern with the USU athletic department's media relations.