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UB men's tennis is outshining expectations

Men’s tennis looks to make push for second straight MAC title as regular season winds down.

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Despite it being the reining Mid-American Conference champions, Buffalo men’s tennis head coach Lee Nickell thinks his team has “outshined [its] expectations” so far this season.

After a conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance, the team lost two of its best players to graduation and another who quit the team to become a model in Europe.

Needless to say, Nickell wasn’t sure what to expect from his team this season.

Yet with four games left in the regular season, the Bulls (9-5, 2-1 MAC) are winners of four of their last five matches and looking to continue their positive momentum into the MAC Tournament.

“I think we’ve definitely outshined our expectations,” Nickell said. “We lost three players last year, two to graduation and one went on to be a model, but coming in with the guys we had, we didn’t know what to expect. We needed time and now we’re over .500 in conference play and our goal is to be playing for a MAC Championship.”

Seniors Sergio Arevalillo and Pablo Alvarez have carried the team this season, with 20 and 16 singles victories, respectively. They have also been impressive in doubles play, as they combined with their respective partners for 18 doubles victories.

Arevalillo said it’s been the goal of the seniors to make the team more like a “family.”

“We wanted to create an atmosphere of always helping our fellow teammates and making it like a family,” he said.

One of the players they have worked to help is fellow senior Akhil Mehta.

Arevalillo said Mehta never stopped working last season, even when he wasn’t playing much. That hard work has paid off, as he is now fourth on the team in singles victories (10).

Arevalillo said that Mehta’s ability to jump in and play right away is a testament to the culture the program has built.

“With Akhil, we just kept pushing him and telling him is time will come,” Arevailillo said. “Now, he’s an important part of our team and our chances of repeating in the MAC.”

Freshman Ethan Nittolois a new face to the team but is fifth in singles victories with nine. He may just be 9-16 overall in singles play, but Nickell said Nittolo has “turned a corner” recently and took on a “good plan of attack” against a veteran player in Saturday’s 5-2 victory against over Toledo (7-14, 0-4 MAC).

Coming into the regular season, the Bulls were seen as the second-best team in the conference despite being the reigning MAC champions. Western Michigan (15-4, 3-0 MAC) w seen as the favorite and backed up that proclamation by winning nine of its last ten games and gaining a national ranking.

Buffalo hosts Western Michigan at the Miller Tennis Center this Sunday. The Bulls lost to Western Michigan last week 5-2 in the two team’s first matchup of the regular season Arevalillo said that he wants to prove that the team is “confident” in their chances of winning the MAC and that might include defeating the Broncos to do so.

Nickell said that the team is on the right track toward getting back in position to beat the Broncos and head into the tournament with the No. 1 seed in the conference.

“We’re on the right path. Western Michigan is considered the frontrunner,” Nickell said. “I’m hoping on Sunday we can close out those leads and establish ourselves as the No. 1 seed in the MAC heading into the tournament.”

Sunday’s match is set for 9:30 a.m.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him at@HaynesTheWriter.


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