The Utah State Aggies punched their first ever team bid to the NCAA men’s tennis team. The team held a Selection Show watch party with fans on Tuesday and were excited to hear that Northwestern University from the Big 10 Conference would be their first round matchup.
When asked about the upcoming matchup with the purple Wildcats (not the neighboring ones from Weber State), USU Coach James Wilson said that he’s been impressed with Northwestern’s program this season.
“Northwestern has been really good the entire year,” said Wilson. “They’ve been inside the top 25 the entire year.”
USU saw Northwestern compete well at Indoor Nationals this year. The team has several nationally ranked singles players and two ranked doubles teams. They come from a power conference that boasts 6 teams playing in the national tournament.
On paper, the Aggies feel that their only advantage is that they have competed in more outdoor competitions than Northwestern and the tournament happens to be outdoors.
The Aggies don’t have any nationally ranked players, but it is their collective team effort that has helped them string together several long winning streaks this year. They routinely win games at the 4th 5th and 6th position which makes up for the losses their best players may face when dealing with top-heavy teams.
The Aggies got the three seed out of four teams in their region. They feel this is fair and they will most likely play the one seed Cal University in their Berkeley home if they advance to the second round.
Coach Wilson and his Aggie team are motivated to make some noise at the Big Dance of tennis.
“We aren’t just content with making the NCAA tournament,” said Wilson. “Our goal is to make it to the Sweet 16.”
The Aggies are a small fish in a large pond of 63 other teams with the same goal. The Aggies have already won the first Mountain West Conference title of any sport since the University joined in 2013. They have also qualified as a team for the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
The tennis team has had a few days off to celebrate their conference title, and had their first day back at practice after finding out who their tournament matchup would be.
“Everyone is excited now that our matchup has been announced,” he said. “We are settling down and getting our mindset ready for next Friday.”
Even though the nationally-ranked #10 California Golden Bears loom as a potential second round matchup, coach Wilson plans to prepare one matchup at a time.
Since a close loss to New Mexico in the middle of conference play, the Aggies went on a 6 game winning streak en route to a conference title. This is attributed to the team realizing what they were capable of and went back to work.
Much of the team’s success can be attributed to the most improved player on the team: Sam Serrano. Serrano started the year at 6th singles and gradually moved up to the third spot. His hard work on conditioning his body paid off.
Coach Wilson knows exactly what he would say to an athlete playing a tiebreaker with a win on the line.
“I would tell him to play his game,” he said. “Play to win and be aggressive.”
Coach Wilson doesn’t live on hypotheticals, but he if the Aggies win a national title, Wilson plans to celebrate with his wife. He will certainly be cheering for plenty of Aggie victories coming up if that’s the case.
From the highs of their best win against 4th ranked TCU to the lows of that close loss to New Mexico, the Utah State Aggies have strung together several long winning streaks this season en route to a historic conference title and a trip to the NCAA tennis tourney. They have done so under the great leadership of team captain Jack Swindells and their successful first year head coach.
Unlike the Beatles, “love” is certainly not all the Aggies will need in the postseason but they will be willing to put their opponents in love situations as much as possible.