Years ago Fullerton, Calif., Russia and Australia gave BYU three new freshmen for the men’s and women’s tennis programs. Next weekend these three seniors say goodbye to BYU, playing in their final matches as Cougars.
The men’s tennis team will finish its season, and its two seniors will finish their times as Cougars, at home next weekend against the Loyola Marymount Lions and Pepperdine Waves.
Michael Eraso, from Fullerton, Calif., said the best moments of his life have come at BYU.
“I prepared for a mission here; I met my wife at BYU; I’ve had a lot of good memories on the tennis team and working with them,” Eraso said. “I think the highlights of my whole life really come here, and I want to finish strong.”
Georgy Batrakov, a long way from his Russian home, said the players are excited to face the top-ranked Pepperdine team and for Senior Day.
“I’m getting a good diploma and I’ve improved myself as a tennis player,” Batrakov said. “I’m really grateful for BYU giving me all the opportunities to play. It’s going to be a big week for us; we’re going to go out and play our best tennis.”
BYU coach Brad Pearce said the team is “nothing but excited” for the opportunity to play LMU and Pepperdine to send off Eraso and Batrakov.
“These guys have meant so much to the program,” Pearce said. “Not only their performance on the court, but their leadership off the court. They’re going to be a major part of this program for years to come. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished and the kind of young men they’re becoming.”
The Lions (8-10) recorded consecutive losses to Santa Clara and UC Irvine and will play four matches, three of which are conference play, before coming to BYU. The Cougars, coming off two conference wins and having a week break, feel the momentum is in their favor.
Powerhouse No. 8 Pepperdine, 16-6 on the season and the only team undefeated in the West Coast Conference, hasn’t dropped a match since February. The Waves have won 10 straight matches, but also have four to play before taking on the Cougars.
The Cougars face off with the Lions Friday, April 20, and take on the Waves Saturday, April 21. Both matches are at noon on BYU’s outdoor tennis courts; admission is free and pizza will be provided for Cougar fans.
The women’s tennis team will finish its season, and captain Megan Price will play her last matches wearing the BYU blue, in California against LMU and Pepperdine.
“It’s a great way to finish,” Price said. “We’re going to a beautiful city and I get to spend it with 10 of the best people I know at BYU.”
The Cougars (7-12), after topping two conference foes over the weekend, will have a week break before taking on the Lions and Waves. The players might have a break from matches, but they’re hardly taking it easy.
“We’re always working hard,” Price said. “We’re working even harder this week to prepare for Pepperdine and to build on the momentum of our last two road wins.”
BYU coach Lauren Jones-Spencer said it’s sad to see Price go, but the team is going to fight hard to send her off on a good note.
LMU (5-13) dropped two conference matches last week and will have to play three more matches before taking on BYU. No. 35 Pepperdine, however, has won its last six matches, and are currently undefeated in the WCC and are expected to win its three matches before BYU.
As the season closes, Jones-Spencer said her young team has consistently progressed throughout the season.
“I’m happy with the way we’re playing and the way we’ve improved every match,” Jones-Spencer said. “I’m really looking forward to our last conference matches and the [West Coast Conference] tournament.”
The Cougars take on the Lions Friday, April 21 and the Waves Saturday, April 22. Both matches start at 1:30 p.m. PST at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center in Malibu, Calif.