COLLEGE TENNIS: Falcons reflect on historic season

May 23—The UTPB tennis team recently completed one of the best seasons in program history.

The Falcons are hoping that more success will follow.

UTPB's season came to an end with a 4-0 loss to Columbus State in the Sweet 16 round at the NCAA Division II Tournament Tuesday in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

However, there were plenty of things for the Falcons to feel proud of.

This season consisted of the program's first Lone Star Conference title and UTPB's first appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament since 2019.

Head coach Alex Hunt is hopeful that this season's success will lead to more in the future.

"This season meant a lot to us," Hunt said. "When we built this team over the last year or so, bringing in new recruits and a few transfers, we've been trying to change the culture and everything. This is what we were playing for. We had a few goals along the way but the end goal was to get to the Sweet 16 and see what we could do. It's rare in any type of sport to set forth a crazy goal and accomplish it that quickly. I think it's given our guys a lot of confidence to know that at the very least, this is possible."

A historic 4-3 win over Midwestern State in the South Central Regional Tournament sent the Falcons to Florida for the remainder of the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Coincidentally, the Falcons faced Midwestern State in their last NCAA Division II Tournament appearance back in 2019 which resulted in a Mustang victory.

UTPB's victory over Midwestern State earlier this month did not come easy, especially with the Falcons' top doubles team of Vitaliy Horovoy and Jonathan Vega losing to Killian Guillou and German Setti, 7-5.

"Up to that point, on the biggest day of the season for us, we showed up but lost the doubles point by the way," Hunt said. "We came back for a victory on the road in a very tough atmosphere against a team we've never beaten. That was really cool because once you lose a doubles point against Midwestern State, your odds don't look good."

The Falcons also faced the tough task of having to beat Midwestern State on the road.

"When you have 100-150 people out there rooting against you, that's an added layer of difficulty so the fact that our guys were able to handle all of that and storm back and win, it was pretty special," Hunt said. "It just shows the confidence and trust that they all have in each other."

One of the things that stood out for Hunt was his team's consistency throughout the year.

"As we've seen with the other top schools in our conference and across the country, it's hard to perform at a high level every single week," Hunt said. "When you drop a match that you're not supposed to drop, it can be very hard to come back from and perform at a high level. The fact that we ended our season with a 20-5 record, it shows that even when we did have a rough day, our guys were able to bounce back, very quick with their confidence and get the job done the next day or the next week. That was cool to see from the coaches."

Despite losing on Tuesday, Hunt said Falcons gained crucial experience from advancing this far into the postseason.

"I felt like we walked off the court thinking that we have more experience and we can play better in the future," Hunt said. "In the next couple of years, we can talk about elite eight or final four. I think this season has meant a lot because we did what we set out to do and we have a lot of confidence."

He's also confident that this season's success will make recruiting easier in the future.

"When I recruit, it's much easier to get a conversation going with high-level recruits because now they know they're talking with a program that is competing to win national championships," Hunt said. "Moving forward, the whole idea here is nothing is a given. No one will give you anything. But if we remain consistent, then there's no reason to believe we can't reach a Sweet 16 or Elite Eights or Final Fours or even a national championship match."