Liberal, KS - After a tremendous spring season, the Seward Saints Tennis teams were back in action for the first time this fall in Tyler, Texas for the Tyler Invitational. As expected, the competition in Tyler, Texas is some of the best with Tyler Junior College ending last season as the Number 1 team in Division 1 Junior College Men's Tennis and Number 2 in NJCAA Division 1 Women's Tennis.
The Saints held their own once again in a tough draw the Men's team brought 7 players along and the Women's team brought 6 players along for the Invitational. Every player would play in a single draw and a double draw with one other teammate. Early in the season where the Women's team is full of all freshman and the men's side with just 3 Sophomores it gives Coaches Chase Ashley and Dylan Strickland an early glimpse into the team's singles and doubles live in action against other programs that you cannot mimic in practice.
With the Women's team bring along Lucia Popluharova, Maria Garcia, Liz Aristizabal, Mitzy Enderink, Hilary Alfaro, and Marily Jimenez. On the singles side Lucia Popluharova would lose 3 matches but would bring 2 of those matches to a tie break after splitting the first two sets. Maria Garcia played in the singles draw 3 would lose the first match but bounce back with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Chloe Chawner from University of Texas at Tyler. Garcia would play for the consolation championship but fall short 3-6, 5-7 to Mariona Franco from the University of Central Oklahoma. Popluharova and Garcia would team up in the doubles side and enter into draw 2. Winning their opening round match 8-4, and then lose in the semifinals 3-8. Entering the 3rd place match on Saturday Popluharova and Garcia would take down Yoshimura and Chan from Tyler Junior College 8-0 to claim the 3rd place title.
Also, in action for the Saints was Mitzy Enderink in the singles draw 7 and her first match coming up short 2-6,2-6. Enderink would enter the consolation bracket but fall short again to 1-6, 4-6 but would bounce back in the 7th place match to beat Grace Bell from St. Mary 6-2, 7-6 winning the tie breaker 7-4. Showing no signs of quit ended her singles run with a victory. In draw 5 for the Saints was Liz Aristizabal, the first match would test as she would lose the first set 4-6. After the first set Aristizabal would have to dig deep in the second set to force a tie break and win the set 7-6, tie break going 11-9. The third set would also go to Aristizabal 10-4. Movin on she would win the semifinal match 6-4, 7-6 tie break win of 10-8. Aristizabal would enter the championship game in draw 5 but would fall to Nikki Boyer from the University of Central Oklahoma 6-2, 6-2 to claim 2nd place. Enderink and Aristizabal would team up for the doubles draw 3. They would lose their first match 8-3 but win the second do to a forfeit. The final match for the consolation championship they would lose 8-5, to Khamula and Tashbaeva from Tyler Junior College.
In draw 7 for the Saints was the freshman Hilary Alfaro and she would take her first match with ease, winning 6-0, 6-0. The second match would prove to be harder, splitting the first two sets 6-7 with a tie break of 5-7, and a 6-3 win. The final tie breaks up to 10 went in favor of Alfaro winning 10-1 and winning the match to advance to the championship game. Their Alfaro would fall to Lexi Penn in straight set 6-2, and 6-3 to claim second place in draw 7. Competing in draw 9 for the Saints was Marily Jimenez and this draw was a pool play format where they would play everyone in the draw besides one other player in the pool. Having three matches in the draw she would be one of the best winning all three matches 6-1, 6-2 and in the second match winning 6-2, 6-1 and in the third set winning 6-1, 6-0. Jimenez would tie Ana Zaiden from University of Texas at Tyler with three wins in the pool and they did not face each other in the pool. Alfaro and Jimenez would meet up to play in the Women's double draw 4 and would win their first match 8-5. The next two matches wouldn't go as planed losing the next two 8-1, and 8-4.
With this early experience for the young core of the Saints Women's team will prevail to show their battle and fight as the season continues. The Freshman will only grow and learn from these experiences especially this early on the road taking on some of the best programs in the country.
This past weekend the Men's Tennis Team was also in action in Tyler as they had 7 athletes in action. In the Men's Singles draw 1 Sander Jans would win his first match in a nail bitter after splitting the first 2 sets 6-2, 4-6 and it went to a tie breaker up to 10. Jans would take the tie breaker 12-10 and advance to the semifinals but would fall short 6-2, 6-4. The 3rd place match was a battle that would come down to two tie breakers in the two-set match as Angel Polacios from Midwestern State University 7-6, 7-6. In draw 3 Karl Wurth for Seward would go down the first match 7-5, 6-0 but would bounce back in the second match winning 6-3, and 6-0. Wurth would head to the consolation championships but would come up short again to Marco Nikoliuk from Southern Arkansas University 6-4, 6-2 and get 6th place in the draw. Wurth and Jans would team up in doubles for draw 1. This is where the two of them would create their connection and get their groove. They would win the first two matches 8-3 and 8-6. The championship game was against Lyeons and Guerrero from Tyler Junior College, but the Saints would prevail again winning the championship 8-6.
The Saints freshman Raul Centeno would compete in the singles draw 2. He would lose the first match 7-5 and 6-1 but bounce back in the second match winning 6-3 and 6-1 to head to the consolation championship. Facing Marko Nikoliuk from Southern Arkansas University he would fall 7-5 and 6-1 to get 6th in the draw. In the singles draw 4 the Saints had Francisco Vargas in action with his first match being a victory 7-5, 6-1. The second match Vargas would cruise winning 6-3, 6-1 and he was on to the championship match to face off against Rohit Patil from Tyler Junior College. Unfortunately, Vargas would lose in straight sets to Patil 6-3, 6-3. With Vargas and Centeno teaming up in the doubles draw 2 they would connect like no other team in the draw. They would win the first two matches 8-4, 8-6 and head on to the championship game in their draw. They would take on Nikoliuk and Gondouin from Southern Arkansas University and once again Vargas and Centeno would cruise to an 8-4 victory to claim the Championship.
In draw 7 the Saints freshman Juan Gonzales would take on the challenge right out of the gate taking the first match 6-3, 6-3. The second match would prove to be a battle with splitting sets, but Gonzales would prevail in a 6-4, 6-7, 10-7 victory and headed to the championship game. He would be taking on Bernardo Viero and again Gonzales would take it in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 and another Championship for the Saints in the invitational. Another freshman Valenitine Ortiz would put up a fight by splitting the sets but would come up short in the tie break, 6-7, 6-2, 10-4. Going down in the second match as well 6-3, 6-2 Ortiz would go to the 7th place match where he would win to claim the 7th place spot in draw 8. Ortiz would team up with Gonzales for the doubles draw 4. Here is where the two again like the previous double's teams would find their groove and claim a championship as well. They would win the first match 8-2 and the second and third match with a disqualification to win draw fours Championship.
Draw 2 in the Men's singles had two Saints competing but would not face off agaisnt each other as Oscar Ortiz would win his first match in a split set tie breaker going 7-6, 4-6, and 11-9 to advance to the semifinals. He would lose in straight sets to Ben Westwick from Midwestern State University but would come back strong in the the third place match to win 7-6, 7-6 in an intnse match. The final member of the Saints Men's Tennis team that participated this weekend was Fabian Van Huffel. Like in show business you save the best for last and in this case it comes on the shoulders of the freshman who had an outstanding weekend. The first match Van Huffel would be placed in draw 6 of the singles side and took the first match 6-1, 6-2. Following that performance he would not slow down all weekend after winning the next two matches with a score of 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals and a 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match to claim another championship for the Saints during the weekend draws. But Van Huffel was not done as he teamed up with teammate Oscar Ortiz for draw 5 on the doubles side of the invitational. They would cruise to the championship game winning 8-0 in their first two matches. Waiting for them in the championship match was Marin and Germinara from Southern Arkansas University. This was a battle for the pair of Freshman, but Van Huffell and Ortiz once again would prevail to claim the draw 5 championship.
The Saints came into the Invitational with a lot of question marks on both the Women's and Men's team having a lot of new faces but with a weekend were the women's side saw a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes shows that they are on the right track. For the Men's side that saw 5 first place finishes and a 2nd place finish shows that the team is starting to click early this season and looking to get back to where they were a year ago. A lot more matches to play but for a season that is just starting the Saints will once again be an exciting program to watch on both the Women's and Men's side of the draw.
Assistant Athletic Director of Communications
Seward County Community College