Rolling off a Big West tournament championship, the Cal Poly men’s tennis team is looking for more.
The Mustangs, along with the Cal Poly women’s tennis team, are using a series of tournaments this fall to prepare for their regular season beginning in late January. The men’s team, specifically, is looking to build off its 15-9 (5-0 Big West) record last year.
“The summer and specifically the fall season in tennis is really a time to develop your strengths and also improve your weaknesses,” second-year head coach Nick Carless said. “In the college tennis season, there’s so much traveling and playing from January to May, that you really don’t have time to break things down. Tennis isn’t one of those sports where you can start changing grips or styles of play. The summer and fall is really the time to iron out those issues.”
It’s the first offseason Carless will have with the Mustangs. The coach came to Cal Poly last season from Pepperdine, where he was previously an assistant for five years prior to coming to Cal Poly.
“I’m lucky enough to have had good mentors and been a part of good teams and good programs,” Carless said. “Pepperdine has been such a tremendous program for decades, and I knew that when I came to Cal Poly, I wanted to not focus on winning and losing but creating a culture of accountability, comradery, teamwork and hard work.”
In his first season at Cal Poly, the Mustangs won both the regular season and post-season tournament titles.
“I knew that I was inheriting a good group of guys who all could play and who were really motivated to win a conference title,” Carless said. “That as a coach is something that you dream of. Once I recognized that motivation that they had, we were going to be on top at the end of the year.”
This season, Cal Poly took home a pair of titles in both singles and doubles at this past weekend’s UCSB Classic. In doubles, senior Jordan Bridge and junior Jordan Kepler won 8-3 in the final against California. Sophomore Naveen Beasley defeated teammate Gannon Daynes in the singles final.
“Overall, we did very well,” Beasley said. “There were a couple matches we could have won, but that was due to some health issues. Last year, we were the underdogs and we really didn’t think we would win it. Now, we have a whole new mindset and different goals that we’re the defending champs now, and that we’re out to go even further.”
The Mustangs will take on four-time defending national champion USC for the first time in program history in early May. However, the team remains focused on preparing itself for the entire season rather than focusing on one opponent.
“You have to worry about yourself as a team. Every match should be the same; you should approach it with a sense of urgency,” Carless said.
And while the men’s team looks to build on last year’s success, the women’s team is looking to improve a young squad.
“Having a young team, we’ll see where we go in terms of record; I’m not really concerned with that,” head coach Damon Coupe said. “I’m concerned with this team getting better every day, and right now they are.”
Louise Oxnevad leads the incoming class of freshmen. However, she has missed significant time this fall season because of various reasons.
“She’s been playing a lot of catch up with her game,” Coupe said. “To have her play this well, it gives us a lot of conference with her going forward with what she can do.”
The team finished in fourth place last year, but they are determined to play at an even higher level this year.
“We’ve been working on getting better,” junior Kathryn Webb said. “We want this year to be different.”
The Mustangs also lost returners sophomore Irene Kuipers to injury and junior Alexa Lee for undisclosed reasons.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the remaining players,” Coupe said. “But it’s gonna be a learning experience, they’re going to get better and they’re going to benefit from it in the long run.”