With the 2018-2019 season just one day away, the UC Riverside Men's Tennis Team is poised to continue its tradition of building and growing year by year. Since Head Coach Mattias Johansson's arrival before the 2015-16 season, a year in which he led the team to a DI record 13 wins, the Highlanders have consistently surpassed their previous accomplishments every year. In 2017 the team earned 14 wins and just last year set the current record of 16. This year Johansson and the squad have their sights set on not only reaching internal milestones, but making some noise in the Big West.
"It truly is great what we've been able to do because of course part of the goal is to see improvement each year, but our long term goal has always been to move up the standings in conference," Johansson said. "That is what we have to do for the team and I to really feel that we accomplished what we set out to do. Whether it happens this year remains to be seen, but that is what were focused on."
The team's journey begins tomorrow on the road in Arizona as the Highlanders will face four teams in Ottawa Arizona, Arizona Christian, Grand Canyon, and Arizona this weekend.
"Starting on the road is good for comradery and gets us prepared early in the season. Nothing its tougher than playing on the road so we set the standard from the get-go," Johansson said. "We have started pretty slow in past years so we are hoping to get it going earlier this season against some good teams.
UCR is no stranger to the road, having scheduled 26 away/neutral matches this season, and team definitely did not shy away from competition lining up a tough non-conference schedule.
The Highlanders' roster is a similar one as the team did not have any seniors graduate last season and only one offseason addition was made.
Team Captains, senior Kyle McCann and junior Nabil Abdallah, return as leaders of this growing team and round out a group of veterans in juniors Max Cohen and Gilbert Chung and senior Andy Ju. Last season McCann Abdallah combined for 42 singles wins alone and had a hand in 31 doubles wins.
"Nabil and Kyle have really shown improvement in their years here," Johansson said. "The combination of these two, along with Andy, gives us a great group leaders that set the tone for our team.
Sophomore Vignesh Subramanyan also returns to the Highlanders after a very successful rookie season where posted the team's best best record of 22-7 in single play. The then UCR freshman came through for his team several times on court six sealing a few wins with the match on the line.
"Vignesh had a tremendous first year and many players struggle to play against him because of his style," Johansson said. "He is so efficient in his movements and it is hard to read him. We expect him to move up the lineup this year for us and continue getting wins."
Ju and sophomore Fillip Engstrom, who combined for 32 doubles wins last year, will likely be leaned on in doubles play once again, which always proves to be a critical part of collegiate tennis. Last year, the duo of McCann and Engstrom earned an All-Conference honorable mention after posting an 18-8 record.
The newest addition to the team is sole freshman and London native, Andreas Whelen-Merediz, who the team expects to make an impact this year.
"Andreas is a great shot-maker," Johansson said. "He is a young guy and has a lot of upside potential in my opinion. If he can continue to work and improve, I think he can win matches for us this year."
The road begins tomorrow at 1 PM as the Highlanders take on Ottawa-Arizona.