High hopes may abound for this years men’s tennis team, but the goal is the same as any other season, according to head coach Rich Hills who heads into his final year as head coach.
“I would have to say for coaching for 32 years, it would be nice to get a national championship, which may be a long shot, but it’s not the main goal of the team,” Hills said. “Our main goal, which fits the mission statement of the campus, is to lift up Christ and I think we have lived up to that expectation if not superseded it.”
This season, the roster is composed of players who bring both balance and experience to the court. Overall, however, this season should prove to have a different outlook than last year.
“For the most part they’re very similar, we have a base of kids that are pretty much equal all the way too,” said Hills. “So that can be a strength and a weakness, because our no. 1 might not be as skilled as the other school’s no. 1, but we might have advantages for our no. 5 player against a higher ranked player.”
One player who exemplifies such experience is four year senior Michael Zablan, who was injured for a majority of the previous season.
“Last year was tough, because I was injured for most of the season. I want to get back to winning most of my matches,” Zablan said. “I was winning most of them during my freshman and sophomore year, so I want to get back to that level.”
Zablan said he believes the team has a shot at its rivals, namely Azusa Pacific University, Fresno Pacific University and Westmont College.
“Azusa’s always a fun school to play — fun, but tough,” Zablan said. “It’s also our season opener. Westmont is another big rival for us; they have a very dedicated fan base, usually get around 100 fans coming out which is a lot for tennis. We’ll also be playing at their place this year so that will be exciting.”
An initial transfer, Kaptan Kaster, shared the same optimism as well, with an emphasis on improving from last season’s 8-17 team record.
“I think we had a lot of new people come in the spring, so our camaraderie maybe wasn’t that good; but this year we have more cohesiveness and experience, definitely helps to have team leadership,” he said. “But overall, we want to make this season special for coach since this is his last year.”
This balanced, yet experienced PLNU men’s tennis team looks to take on Azusa Pacific University on Feb. 7 in hopes of avenging their season opener from the 2012-2013 season.