Cold weather conditions affected the Webster University men’s tennis team — but didn’t throw the Gorloks off their game. Webster continues its win streak to 10 victories in a row and head into the toughest tests of the season. Webster has compiled a 10-1 record in that 10-match win streak.
A 9-0 overall match victory over Concordia Seminary on Tuesday, March 19 at Webster Groves Tennis Center (WGTC), keeps the Gorloks’ momentum rolling into a match against No. 16 Washington University (Mo.) on Thursday, March 21 in Clayton.
Seniors Diego Alarcon and Francisco Cortez both say the biggest match of the season will be against Westminster College (Mo.) — a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponent — on Saturday, March 23 at the WGTC.
Webster has never beaten the Bluejays, but the Gorloks believe they now have their best chance.
“If we beat Westminster, we win the conference — that’s it,” Alarcon said. “It’s going to be a good accomplishment, especially because Webster has never won a conference (title) before.”
Alarcon, playing at No. 1 singles defeated his opponent 6-4, 6-3. Every singles match lasted only two sets as Webster’s No. 2 Cortez played in the closest match, winning 7-5, 6-3.
At singles No. 3, freshman Travis Blair won his match 6-3, 6-1. Senior Ricky Eaves played at No. 4 and took home a victory with a 6-2, 6-1 result. Senior Josh Sellmeyer, playing at No. 5, won 6-1, 6-1. Senior Wakeel Rahman rounded out the singles matches with his 6-1, 6-1 victory.
In doubles play, Alarcon and Sellmeyer won at No. 1, 8-2. Position No. 2 saw Cortez and senior Ricky Eaves win 8-3. Blair and sophomore Josh Papes won at the No. 3 slot with an 8-4 result.
Alarcon and Cortez both believe the team’s depth is giving it an advantage Webster has had never had before. In the win over Concordia, the Gorloks’ usual No. 3 singles player — senior Agustin Villalba — wasn’t at the match due to a night class he needed to attend.
“We’re really deep,” Cortez said. “We’ve got Josh (Sellmeyer), ‘Trav’ (Blair) and Ricky (Eaves) on the bottom of the lineup, which is huge. I mean, Ricky (Eaves) was playing (No. 3) last year, and they are all playing huge.”
Cortez said those players — and even himself — could be the top players on the team. That is one of the strengths he thinks gives the whole team more confidence.
Webster coach Michael Siener realizes Webster has the opportunity to win on March 23 against Westminster but doesn’t want to put too much pressure on his guys.
“It’s big, but it’s just another match,” Siener said. “With tennis, it all comes down to that last week. This is a good measuring stick, but it’s not a do-or-die match. I want them to play loose and play hard.”
Alarcon said the team can handle that pressure.
“All of us can play in tough moments,” Alarcon said. “We all know that this has to be the year, and with seven seniors we know there are no more opportunities after this.”
The low temperatures during the March 19 night match may have affected Alarcon more than any other player.
“I play with glasses, and when it’s so cold, they fog,” Alarcon said. “It’s kind of shitty for me. We have a lot of cold matches, and it can be tough.”
Siener said because of the weather, both the men’s and women’s teams have struggled.
“We didn’t get to practice yesterday because of rain. It’s been cold.” Siener said. “But we’re not the only ones. Everybody else has been spotty as far as practice and playing time. It’s a little bit of a struggle.”
Westminster is sharing in that struggle. Siener said he talked to Bluejays coach Dave Dyson about Westminster’s troubles with the weather and how spring break kept the Bluejays off the court for about two weeks.
Westminster will come into its match with Webster at 1-6 on the season, but the Bluejays have lost to Division-II teams such as Quincy University (Ill.) and Truman State University.