Men’s tennis hopes to shine in home opener, new conference

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The men’s tennis team is looking forward to a new season and a new conference as it begins the season at home against in-state foe Weber State.

“Keaton Cullimore [a freshman] had an outstanding fall season and has shown that he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with against anybody,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “We’re excited to get going.”

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Pearce believes the team is ready for Weber State, with good veteran players leading the team and new and young faces that push the team and have brought a good energy with them.

“Weber State is always a good team and good preparation for the rest of the season,” senior Georgy Batrakov said.

The Cougars are ranked No. 36 in the nation, with three players ranked nationally — No. 43  Georgy Batrakov, No. 67 freshman Keaton Cullimore and No. 106 sophomore Patrick Kawka.

While the Cougars dominated the Mountain West Conference, going undefeated in conference play the last two years,  Pearce knows his team faces stiff competition in the West Coast Conference.

“We have some great challenges ahead of us with moving into the West Coast Conference,” Pearce said. “There’s some very strong teams not only at the top, but I think also throughout the entire conference.”

Pearce is confident in his team’s ability to succeed in the West Coast Conference. He said his plan for success is simple.

“We need to continue to do what we’ve been doing, stay focused on each and every match and work hard in practice and just continue to prepare the way we’ve been doing the last few years that has proven to be successful,” Pearce said.

The players, though, are excited about competing in the West Coast Conference and playing new teams in California.

“It’s definitely a new experience because we’re going to play different teams we don’t know much about,” Batrakov said.

The Cougars had been in the Mountain West Conference for the past 10 years and junior Spencer Smith said the team is ready for the tough conference.

“There’s a lot of good teams in the conference and most of the teams are from California so we’re going to have to go out there and play them at sea-level, so it’s also kind of an adjustment, but I think we have a really good team this year,” Smith said. “We’re young, but all our freshmen are really good.”

Pearce is also excited about the growing fan base the men’s team is gaining and is hoping for larger crowds at home matches as they continue with tennis’s “festival atmosphere” with free pizza, prizes and halftime entertainment.

“The students and public that have come out and watched our matches have really been impressed with the level of athleticism and skill our players display,” Pearce said.

The Cougars face off against Weber State Friday at 5:30 p.m. on the indoor tennis courts.

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