Over the past two weeks, the Southwest Baptist Men's Tennis team has been fantastic. They made serious strides in two of the largest ITA-sanctioned events of the fall semester: the ITA Central Regional Championships and the ITA Oracle Cup. The men took the singles champion title, the doubles champion and doubles runner-up trophies from Regionals and followed that up with a fourth-place doubles run and fifth-place single's finish at the ITA Oracle Cup, which features the top D2 tennis players from across the country.
The Southwest Baptist tennis program is no stranger to the championship track, as the women have been among the top eight teams in the division for the past two years. The men have not been too far behind. The men's team has been composed predominantly of freshman and sophomores in recent years, but this year, head coach John Bryant believes his team's experience will take them further into these top-level tournaments.
"These results showed that we have great depth as a team," Bryant said. "They played as hard as they could."
Bryant is referring to both October events. In the ITA Central Regional Championships, the Bearcats left with both the Men's "A" singles title and the "Men's "A" doubles title, but the accolades do not end there. The doubles pair of brothers Ferenc and Gyorgy Agoston took on their teammates Sherif Abohabaga and Chris Blodig in the final round. The number two doubles team for the SBU team defeated the number one pair in the championship match as an unseeded duo.
Although championships always represent an incredible accomplishment, it's a bit tougher when it's against teammates. The Agoston brothers are a freshman/sophomore duo, while their teammates and opponents were a junior and a senior. Playing against teammates never proves an easy task, especially when it's for one of the highest honors of the fall tournament season.
"The sophomore in the group had tears in his eyes after the match because he understood what the other team was going through," Bryant said. "They're a unique group of kids who love each other and really get along."
In Arizona for the Oracle Cup, Abohabaga lost to the eventual champion and picked up the fifth place finish while the Agoston duo also fell to the eventual champions before picking up their fourth place finish.
Looking forward from these events, Bryant knows his team's goal is to move further into the NCAA D2 tournament than they have in previous years. Given that this was the first year they traveled to the Oracle Cup, the head coach acknowledges the great potential of this group.
Bryant founded the men's program and has now been part of the women's team for 11 years as well. His goals for the spring are the same now as they've always been: to be an academic All-American team like they have been and to win the last match of the spring.
"We are very capable of competing at the national level," Bryant said. "They've always been great students, and they are also great athletes as well."