BYU tennis battled it out earlier this month at the ITA Mountain Regional Championship in Denver. Sean Hill and Mateo Vereau Melendez took first and second place respectively and secured two spots at the ITA National Fall Championships.
While this will be senior Hill’s second shot at nationals, sophomore Vereau Melendez will be entering the tournament for the first time.
BYU men’s tennis head coach Brad Pearce said that in his 20 years of attending the regional competition, he has never seen two individuals from the same school advance together through singles play.
The ITA Mountain Regional Championship took place Oct. 16-20 and was composed of athletes from 20 different schools within the Mountain Region. The players competed in singles and doubles tournaments throughout the three days.
The final match was expected to be held Sunday, Oct. 20, but because the final match included BYU players, it was postponed to follow BYU regulations, which discourages Sunday play. Hill faced Vereau Melendez on Tuesday, Oct. 22, and Hill won the match 6-1, 6-1 earning his second singles ITA Mountain Regional Championship, his first being in 2017.
While the BYU tennis team is not currently undergoing its regular season, the tournament play allows players to increase their personal ranking within the nation — a feat that could earn them a coveted spot in the NCAA tournament next summer.
Pearce said the tournament was especially important because not only were the players exposed to additional match play but they also had a chance to improve their individual rankings.
While the Mountain Region consists of only 20 schools in the surrounding area, Nationals will comprise of 128 of the best tennis players throughout the nation — 64 men and 64 women — competing for their national ranking. According to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, this is the largest competition of the year and will be the only time collegiate tennis athletes can compete with players from all five major regions in the United States.
Hill said he is excited to be given the opportunity to play against some of the best tennis players in the country one more time.
“It’s always great to go to Nationals because it’s a great opportunity to play the best people in the nation,” Hill said. “I always like to play against players who are usually better than me because it’s always a way to test myself.”
The senior said that instead of letting the nerves get the best of him, he likes to focus on playing good tennis without overthinking the outcome. This, along with taking one match at a time, has been the key to his success.
Trujillo, Peru, local Vereau Melendez agreed with Hill, saying he is excited for the chance to increase his national ranking. As a younger competitor, he said that while he is slightly nervous, he is eager to give the competition his best shot and show his potential as a future contender.
“I just think it’s a great chance for me to get as deep in the draw as possible and am just trying to do my best now,” Vereau Melendez said. “This is the first time, so I don’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go for it.”
The ITA Fall Nationals will be held on Nov. 6-10 in Newport Beach, California.