St. Edward’s University men’s tennis team starts spring season with exhibition meets

Amanda Gonzalez

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Ranked No. 24 in the nation and third in the region, the St. Edward’s University men’s tennis team started 2016 with four non-divisional meets in three days.

On Feb. 5, St. Edward’s lost 8-1 against Division I Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on campus. 

The team then traveled to Southwestern University, winning 8-1 on Feb. 6. 

The Hilltoppers finished their weekend with a doubleheader on Feb. 7, earning a 5-4 win against the University of Texas-Tyler in the morning and 7-0 loss to the nationally-ranked Division I Texas A&M University in the afternoon.

St. Edward’s is now 2-2.

“We schedule this type of competition [against Division I and III schools] early in the season to sharpen the tools and get tough,” Estevam Strecker says. 

“Once the Division II schedule kicks in, we’ll be ready. That’s our real competition, and that’s who I am looking forward to playing against,” Strecker says.

In his second year at St. Edward’s, the Heartland Conference’s reigning Coach of the Year Strecker says the team’s season goals include winning its eighth-straight conference title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament again.

Minus one graduate from last season, five of the six players from last season have returned, along with two eligible junior transfers and four freshmen newcomers – making this year’s spring team a roster of 11.

“No. 1 through 11 are very solid,” Strecker says. “I really feel like anyone can come in and play and help and contribute.”

In the home opener against A&M-Corpus Christi, the only St. Edward’s victory of the day came from No. 1 doubles team sophomore Ricardo Pineda and junior Charlie Shin.

Time is a big factor when competing against Division I schools. The singles-dominant TAMU-Corpus Christi had eight previous weeks of spring competition over the Hilltoppers.

“To beat a team like this, we need four hours of mental toughness and physical toughness, and playing good tennis, and we’re just not quite there yet – but we’ll be there when it matters,” Strecker says.

A standout against Southwestern was freshman Andre Mercado, who went 6-2, 6-0 at the No. 6 singles spot and went 8-2 at No. 3 doubles with freshman Mateus Dellavachia de Col. With another doubles victory and five other victories in singles, St. Edward’s dominated 8-1.

Against UT-Tyler, a doubles win and singles victories from Shin, senior Maximo Agoglia and Dellavachia de Col tied the score at four. Then junior Jared Fellows had a critical win, making the final score 5-4.

Wrapping up the long weekend at College Station, the Aggies swept the Hilltoppers 7-0.

Regarding overall effort and confidence, Strecker says he asks his team to “put it all on the line – if you lose, you lose; if you win, you win.”

Also worth noting, the 2014 Heartland Conference Player of the Year Bake has not played due to a hand injury.

In the next few weeks, Strecker says he will try different doubles combinations and line-ups, giving everyone a chance to earn a spot among the top eight for Division II traveling competitions.

The men’s tennis team has their next home meet on Feb. 13 at 9:30 a.m. against Division III Trinity University.