Total team effort: Mesa tennis team doesn’t rely on single player to win matches
Dan MacDonald’s first recruiting class recorded a first Saturday, becoming the first Mesa State tennis team to qualify for the NCAA Division II national tournament.
The Mavericks won the Central Region playoff against St. Cloud State the old-fashioned way, without a lot of big-name, highly recruited players in that senior class.
Jordan Chomko was a state runner-up at Chatfield High School in No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles.
Nick Provenza was also a two-time state runner-up for Grand Junction High School.
Niko Carrizo didn’t play high school tennis — Pagosa Springs High School doesn’t have a tennis team. Tennis, though, is a family sport, and he grew up playing in summer tournaments.
“It’s awesome for those four seniors, they’ve worked so hard,” MacDonald said. “They were my first recruiting class, and Rashad (Khamis) was a big junior college transfer. It’s been four years of hard work for those guys.”
The Mavericks play St. Edward’s (Texas) this afternoon in the first round of the single-elimination tournament.
Several years ago, the NCAA went away from a bracketed tournament for each position and instead went to a team format.
Doubles are played first, and the first team to win five matches advances. When the fifth match is won, all other matches are stopped in progress.
The format plays to the Mavs’ strength, which is their balance.
“We get points even if Jordan has a bad day (at No. 1 singles), somebody picks him up,” MacDonald said. “We get points from all different positions. That’s what happened (in the regional), it was an overview of the whole season.”
Every player picked up a team point in the regional match, either in doubles or singles.
Carrizo and Khamis lost their No. 2 doubles match, but recorded the first two wins in singles.
“I’m still disappointed we didn’t pull it out,” Khamis said of the 9-7 loss in doubles. “It was a total team effort like that this whole year. Some won’t win in doubles but will bounce back in singles.”
MacDonald took the four seniors and added a pair of freshmen in the middle of the lineup and they’ve more than held their own.
Andres Hernandez is from Venezuela and lived in Utah for one year before coming to Mesa State, and Brason Hollabaugh grew up playing some of the best players in Texas.
“They’ve played better than any freshmen I’ve seen,” Provenza said. “It’s a little different than when I came here. They weren’t as wide-eyed as we were.
“Every single person contributes, and you can’t ask for more than that.”