James Ludlow helped to lead the Cougars to a sweep of the Wildcasts. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The No. 73 BYU men's tennis team opened its regular season at home Saturday, sweeping in-state rival Weber State in preparation for the regional playoff to be held Jan. 20 at Boise State.
"I know we have a good strong team, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this caliber of tennis against a good opponent the first tournament of the year and coming right out of the winter break," BYU head coach Brad Pearce said.
The Cougar veterans led the way against the Wildcats. Seniors Dominik Kaufhold (team captain) and James Ludlow lost to Sascha Kienhe and Fabio Mancarella at the BYU Fall Tennis Classic in September and they were eager to get another shot at Weber State's best duo.
Ludlow and Kaufhold broke Kienhe to go up 4-2 and Ludlow held serve to take the set to 5-2. It looked like the Cougar tandem was going to make quick work of the Wildcats, but Mancarella shifted the momentum slightly back Weber State's way with his high energy. Kienhe and Mancarella pulled within one at 6-5, but they would get no closer to beating Ludlow and Kaufhold for the second time in a row on the Cougar courts and lost the match 8-5.
"The doubles match motivated us a lot for the singles matches," Kaufhold said. "The last time we played them we came out slow. Today we came out 100 percent from the start and we controlled the pace."
Kaufhold faced Mancarella in the No. 2 singles spot and shut him down in a timely fashion, 6-2, 6-2. Ludlow saw Kienhe the marquis match of the day and spectators were not disappointed. The two traded points in the first set as they each held serve to 5-4 in Kienhe's favor. He had a chance to break Ludlow and win the set, but Ludlow saved a point with a fully stretched, jumping backhand volley. He would hold serve and break Kienhe in the next game and go on to win the set.
Ludlow broke Kienhe's serve early in the second set, but Kienhe would return the favor late in the set and end up winning the second in a 7-4 tiebreak. The third set was all Ludlow as he hit a number of cross-court winners and took the set 6-2.
"I thought James showed a very professional mentality," Pearce said. "That's the difference between a lot of junior collegiate players and seasoned players. He was just solid today."
Other notable victories came from senior Chip Hand who is still recovering from a severely sprained ankle. Despite being unsure earlier in the week if he would even be able to play in Saturday's match, he dominated with Jonathan Sanchez in doubles, winning 8-2, and made quick work of his singles match, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
"I tried to be cautious and make the right shots at the right time," Hand said. "I had to be smart today so my opponent could not move me around the court and take advantage of my injury."
The regional playoff will be the next time BYU will be in action as they look to beat New Mexico and play the winner of the Boise State vs. UNLV match. BYU finished second to Boise State at the regional tournament in the fall and are looking to upset the Broncos and take the No.1 spot in the NCAA Mountain Region. The next match at home for the Cougars will be a double-header on Feb. 2 against Northern Arizona University and the University of San Francisco.
James Ludlow def. Sascha Kienhe 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2
Dominik Kaufhold def. Fabio Mancarella 6-2, 6-2
Chip Hand def. Mario Schnabl 6-2, 6-2
Cale Planck def. Travis Covington 7-6, 2-6, 6-2
Cassidy Mears def. Chris Williams 6-0, 6-3
Jonathan Sanchez def. Dave Hintze 6-4, 6-4
Ludlow/Kaufhold def. Kienhe/Mancarella 8-5
Planck/Mears def. Schnabl/Covington 8-5
Hand/Sanchez def. Williams/Hintze