December 4, 2020

No. 1-seed Gorloks set sights on men’s tennis SLIAC tournament championship

The Webster University men’s tennis team has ripped through its competition this season and looks to continue the trend in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament on April 26-27. After losing the first match of the season to Cornell College (Iowa) in February, the Gorloks (18-2, 5-0 SLIAC) went on a winning streak of 13 before falling to Washington University in St. Louis on March 29. Heading into the SLIAC tournament, the Gorloks are the No.1 seed and carry a five-match win streak.

Senior Agustin Villalba of the Webster University men’s tennis team hits a forehand during his singles match against Fontbonne University on April 14 at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. With the win over Fontbonne, Webster sealed its No. 1 seed in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship tournament. The tournament will take place on April 27-28 at the Dwight Davis Tennnis Center on Grand Drive. PHOTO BY DAN DUNCAN.

They will face either Greenville College (Ill.) or Westminster College (Mo.) in the semifinals on Friday, depending on which team loses when Greenville and Westminster play Tuesday, April 23.

“The ultimate goal is winning the conference championship,” senior Ricky Eaves said. “We have one match on Friday, and the championship will be on Saturday. We plan on going in there and winning both of those matches pretty easily.”

Unlike other sports at Webster, winning the conference tournament in tennis doesn’t automatically qualify the team for the NCAA tournament. With only five other teams in the SLIAC in men’s tennis, the Gorloks are forced to show they belong with their play. Eaves said they have beaten some good teams this season and they are hopeful for an at-large bid if they win the SLIAC championship.

“It all depends on what we do this weekend,” Eaves said. “I guess the judges will get together and assess what we’ve done and what the other teams have done, and maybe we can get one.”

Coach Michael Siener said he expects a close tournament, noting there isn’t much separation between the four teams.

“If we’re going to win it, we’re going to have to play well,” Siener said. “It’s not going to be an easy tournament to win by any means. I think everyone raises their level of play that weekend as well, so I expect some pretty good matches at Dwight Davis (Tennis Center). I expect us to play the way we’ve played all year. The guys have been determined; they never give up. They fight to the finish; that’s how they’ve been. I think they’ve been looking forward to this weekend for quite some time.

“Hopefully they don’t get too jacked up. I don’t want them too jacked up and overly excited. I just want them to take the approach that it’s another couple matches. I expect they’ll be that way, that’s how they’ve been all year. It’s going to be a good weekend.”

Siener said he hasn’t really thought about the NCAA tournament at-large bid much this year because his team is focused on the SLIAC tournament.

“If we win this thing on Saturday, I’ll probably call our commissioner and figure out who’s on the committee and when the drawing is and everything,” Siener said. “Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. I’m pretty confident that a SLIAC team has to win the tournament to get in, that’s got to happen. I couldn’t tell you if we were close or far away.”

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