Westmont men take down No. 4-ranked Azusa

Four days after defeating Point Loma Nazarene, the No. 6 team in the NAIA national rankings, Westmont men’s tennis took out No.4 Azusa Pacific. The seventh-ranked Warriors swept doubles action on their way to a 5-4 victory.

“It is such a good win to beat a quality team like Azusa,” said Westmont head coach Mark Basham. “It is a really proud moment for Westmont men’s tennis.”

Westmont came out blazing in the doubles matches and had the Cougars on their heels from the start.

“We knew we needed to win as many matches as we could,” said Bryan Cox of the initial intensity of the Warriors. “Everyone was ready to play from the first ball. This is a team we want to beat more than anyone. We have been looking forward to this match for a long time.”

The first victory came on the number three court where Tiago Hayashi and Kent Stormans notched an 8-3 win over Frederick Wilkens and Alex Dickson. On the number one court, Cox and Carlos Lima cruised to an 8-5 win over Janosch Aplet and Jochem Hoefnagels.

“(The APU number one doubles team) is ranked one spot ahead of us in the ranking – they are number two and we are number three,” explained Cox. “So we really wanted to beat them and regain our ranking. We lost to them last time, so we came in focused and ready for a big fight.”

On the number two court, Tim Göranson and Lukas Zielen battled Whitman Hough and Ilja Konnikov to a 9-7 victory to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead.

“I in no way thought we had this match wrapped up being up 3-0,” said Basham about the team’s early lead. “I thought we were at a slight advantage, but I knew a lot of work had to be done. I was concerned that we might let up going into singles. However, I didn’t have to say much to the team about that. Tiago, Carlos and Bryan were expressing the same thoughts and I just echoed what they were saying.”

As it turned out, Basham had reason for concern. The first three singles courts to finish all went to Azusa Pacific, tying the score at 3-0. At number six, Wilkens defeated Stormans 6-1, 6-0. Then at number one, Apelt claimed a 6-4, 6-4 win over Lima. On the number three court, Göranson went the distance in both sets, but lost to Benedikt Eger 7-6 (5) and 7-6 (5).

Westmont finally added to its point total with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) win by Cox over Hoefnagels on the number two court.

“I feel like I am finally playing some good tennis,” said Cox. “I was able to stay focused on one point at a time instead of getting ahead of myself. I was down a break at 5-4 (in the second set) and I came back and broke his serve. He is a very solid player so it was great to beat him.”

Moments later, the Cougars recorded their fourth point when Ikonnikov defeated Zielen 7-6 (3), 6-4 on court number fove. As is often the case in a Westmont match, that made court four the local of the decisive match.

Hayashi lost the first set to Hough by a score of 4-6, but rebounded to win the second set 7-6 (1). By the time court five had finished, Hayashi had a 5-1 lead in the third set and was on his way to a 6-3 victory.

“Azusa is a top-four team, this puts us right up there with everybody,” said a jubilant Cox after the match. “It feels incredible. It feels really, really good.”

The Warriors have two more matches left in the regular season. On Saturday, the Warriors will take on No. 9 Concordia in Irvine – their third top-10 opponent in as many matches. Then on Thursday, Westmont will close out the Golden State Athletic Conference schedule with a home match against Biola.