Leading player wins last home match for UTPA as Broncs split weekend matches.
As the UTPA’s men’s tennis team season neared an end they hoped to go out on a high note. Especially because it was senior Aswin Vijayaragavan’s final weekend as a Bronc, it was important to cap off a season that hadn’t involved many victories on a good note. They faced the daunting task of hosting the University of Texas at San Antonio and St Mary’s University on consecutive days.
The Broncs welcomed the Roadrunners on Saturday and the day started off encouragingly when Vijayaragavan and Beau Bernstein knocked off Martin Ayala and Pedro Zanotelli in the first doubles matchup. However the Roadrunners weren’t fazed as they took the next two doubles matches and tallied the first point of the day. With the Broncs already down one point, it would prove to be that much harder to win the match.
UTPA quickly responded in the singles matchups when freshman Ricardo Hopker defeated his opponent in straight sets. After losing his doubles match, the Brazilian native responded just as Coach Chris Taylor wanted him to.
“I was kind of upset after losing in my doubles match and I knew I had to step up because we need all the victories we could get,” Hopker said. “I played really well and I felt really good out there today.”
With Hopker’s victory the Broncs tied up the score at one. Not to be outdone, the Roadrunners ended the day winning four out of the final five singles matches to secure the overall team win 5-2. The only other bright spot for the Broncs that day was Vijayaragavan beating Ayala in a hard-fought match. Bernstein and Matt Teivans both lost in three sets to their opponents Saturday.
On Sunday the Broncs took on St. Mary’s University in its final match of the 2010-2011 season. The second day of the back-to-back began with the team recognizing senior Vijayaragavan in his final match for the program. The team fed off of the emotion and was determined to win this one for “Winnie,” as he’s called by teammates.
The Broncs swept the doubles matches and as well as the singles. A 7-0 victory on the final day of the season couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It was nice to see Winnie finish his career with us with a win. It means a lot especially with his match being the last match that was on,” Taylor said. “Everyone got to see as he ended his last match. He has meant a lot to the program. He’s good enough to go play anywhere, but he chose to stay here with us. That meant a lot to the program. I know it meant a lot to me personally.”
Vijayaragavan edged his opponent out in straight sets and was a bit emotional after the match ended.
“Well I have mixed feelings right now, sad and happy,” he admitted. “Sad that I’m not going to be part of this team in the future and happy because I finished off with a win and the team won also, so I’m very happy. I have the best teammates who never left my side so I never really thought about leaving at any point. Each year we kept getting better and I’m sure these guys will do something that I couldn’t do as a Bronc.”
Vijayaragavan ended his four-year career at UTPA as a 3-time All-Conference player and twice the Player of the Year.
Though the Broncs didn’t accomplish what they set out to gain this season, Taylor hasn’t changed his expectations moving forward.
“Well our expectations are to win the Southland Conference regular season, win the tournament, and make the NCAA’s,” he said. “Every time we step on the court that’s the goal. That was the goal at the beginning of this year and that didn’t happen. We’re going to make some changes and do better next year.”
The Broncs ended the season with a 2-13 overall record and 1-4 mark in the Southland wars.