For the past 10 years, the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship has eluded the Cougars in men’s tennis, but this past weekend that changed. The No. 36 BYU men’s tennis team won the championship with a 4-2 victory over No. 57 TCU Saturday.
“It’s just so gratifying to accomplish those goals,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “I mean to go undefeated for a second season in a row in a conference and to actually go undefeated in the entire NCAA Mountain Region for the second season in a row, and then top that off with beating the team that beat us last year in the finals was like a story book ending.”
Junior Georgy Batrakov said winning the tournament was one of the team’s goals from the beginning of the season.
“I think it’s huge. It was a big goal for us at the beginning of the season,” Batrakov said. “It’s huge for us to cross this barrier as a program and hopefully this will continue and we will continue breaking barriers and become an even bigger and better program.”
Undeterred by the loss of the doubles point, No. 1 seeded BYU (21-5, 6-0) rolled forward in singles with back-to-back victories at positions No. 4 and No. 2. MWC Freshman of the Year No. 109 Patrick Kawka earned BYU’s first point of the match on a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Slah Mbarek. Three-time MWC Player of the Week Batrakov followed close behind with a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Zach Nichols to push the Cougars ahead 2-1 in the championship match, according to a news release.
Each member of the team showed moments of extraordinary skill throughout the tournament and season, Pearce said.
“Georgy has just been an absolute rock,” Pearce said.
Spencer Smith, who had a key match in the semifinals, battled through a finals match against Christopher Price and eventually won, giving BYU the chance to win it all.
“I think Spencer Smith really provided a pivotal match to put us in position for the victory,” Pearce said.
Team captain Evan Urbina led his team throughout the tournament on and off the court.
“Evan Urbina gave one of the most rousing, inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard during the break, so everyone believed we could go out and do it in singles,” Pearce said in a news release.
That’s just what the Cougars did.
“After doubles I said, ‘We’re not going to let anything take this away from us. This is our day,’” Urbina said in a news release. “Everyone was just so fired up. Everyone believed. And it was right then when I knew we were going to win. We went out believing. We fought, which is what we’ve done all year. It was huge for us.”
BYU last won the MWC Tournament championship in the 2000-01 season. As the Cougars enter the West Coast Conference next year they will arrive as champions and with experience under the belts from the NCAA Tournament in May.