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SEU men’s tennis secures conference championship, advance to Sweet 16

Mercado%27s+%28second+from+right%29+singles+victory+secured+the+win+for+SEU+in+the+Heartland+Conference+Championship
Mercado's (second from right) singles victory secured the win for SEU in the Heartland Conference Championship

Mercado's (second from right) singles victory secured the win for SEU in the Heartland Conference Championship

Mercado's (second from right) singles victory secured the win for SEU in the Heartland Conference Championship

@AdrianG716

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After upsetting rival no. 34 St. Mary’s, no. 36 St. Edward’s men’s tennis team can now claim the title as the 2018 Heartland Conference Champions. With the victory, the team is set to advance to the next stage, looking to make a run in the NCAA regional tournament.

In addition to being claimed champions, head coach Estevam Strecker has won 2018 Heartland Conference Coach of the Year, an award he has claimed for what is now the third time after receiving the honors in 2015 and 2016.

“It was extremely emotional. One of the coolest things I saw is when [junior Andre Mercado] clinched. I was five courts away and I saw all the guys just storm the court … and they were celebrating. I started getting emotional, I still do,” Strecker said, “… It’s when nine months of work pay off and it’s an amazing feeling.”

The team finished the season with a 20-9 record while sweeping the Heartland Conference opponents with a 4-0 record. Reflecting on the success of this year, Strecker noted that this year was special compared to past seasons. “Every season is a roller coaster ride. All years, but especially this year. I’ve always felt that we were due to have one day where everybody played well. We’ve had some tough losses throughout the season. … Throughout the season, we had to deal with some injuries. … But I’ve always known that we were strong by numbers. I have 13 guys that I fully have the confidence that if they step in, they can contribute.”

Heading into the NCAA South Central regional tournament, Strecker says that he is “100 percent” confident in his players and looks forward to seeing what his team can accomplish as they are set to rematch against St. Mary’s for the third time this season.

“No doubt whatsoever. … The best predictor for future performance is past performance. The fact that we have beat St. Mary’s twice this year gives me confidence we are capable of [beating them],” said Strecker.

Junior Andre “Nico” Mercado, who was recently named to the All-Heartland Second Team, says it was a great feeling to clinch the win against St. Mary’s. “It felt great. For me, I don’t think I’ve clinched a match before. So, it was great knowing that all the hard work I’ve put in all season finally came through.”

Even through this feat, though, Mercado says he and the team are remaining focused on the task at hand.

“We know [St. Mary’s] wants to beat us. So, we have to be a little more focused. Yes, we’ve beaten them twice. But don’t be complacent… we still need to focus on going out there and competing,” said Mercado.

On April 30, St. Edward’s was victorious against St. Mary’s with a final score of 5-4. Though the team lost all of three of their doubles matches, it was the singles matches that pushed St. Edward’s through to the Sweet 16.

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SEU men’s tennis secures conference championship, advance to Sweet 16