Idaho’s tennis season began Saturday afternoon when the men’s team defeated Whitman College 7-0 in Lewiston. The team then traveled to take on Portland, but fell short 6-1.
The season opener came two months after the Vandals’ last on-court appearance at Gonzaga.
Sophomore Lucas Coutinho and freshman Esteban Santibanez notched the first win for the Vandals in doubles. The duo defeated Jacob Christensen and Luke Targett 6-0 from the No. 2 position.
The two remaining doubles teams made short work of their opponents. From the No. 1 spot, junior Mark Kovacs and freshman Carlos Longhi Neto again proved to be a dominant team, beating Jake Hoeger and Robert Carter 6-1. In No. 3 doubles, junior Felipe Fonesca and freshman Guilherme Scarpelli also earned a 6-1 victory.
With an early 1-0 lead, the Vandals continued their winning streak in singles competition.
The first singles point for Idaho came courtesy of Santibanez. Playing in the No. 4 slot, Santibanez gained an early lead against Hoeger. A 6-1 win in the first set was enough to swing the momentum in Santibanez’s favor. He went on to win 6-1 in the second set, putting the Vandals up 2-0.
Fonesca found success against Limaye Nishaant, winning 6-1, 6-2 from the No. 3 position. Kovacs earned Idaho’s third point in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Alex Hwang at No. 2.
The Vandals’ closest match came in No. 1 singles. Carter won the first set of the afternoon for the Blues, defeating Fonesca 4-6. Fonesca fought back, shutting out Carter 6-0 in the second set. In the tie breaker, Fonesca kept Carter contained and cruised to a 6-1 win.
From the No. 6 position, Scarpelli defeated Joey Diaz 6-0, 6-1.
Idaho head coach Abid Akbar said he was proud of how his team fought out of the gate, despite the usual uncertainties that come with a season opener.
“Anything can happen in the first match of the season,” Akbar said. “We are happy to get a convincing win over one of the top Division III schools in the nation. It was a good way to get ready for a tough match with Portland on Sunday.”
The Pilots kept the Vandals on their toes the next day. Idaho’s only point came in doubles competition. Kovacs and Longhi Neto teamed up for the first doubles point and Santibanez and Coutinho clinched another victory soon after.
The Pilots took the game over from there. Longhi Neto played in the No.1 spot for the first time this season, but was bested 6-3, 6-3.
Kovacs fell at the hands of Mathieu Garcia 7-6, 6-3 and Fonesca failed to keep up with Pierre Garcia, losing 6-2, 7-6.
Santibanez lost the match that secured the victory for Portland. Alex Wallace defeated him 6-2, 7-5 to close out the afternoon.
Idaho will stay on the road and travel to Gonzaga. The Vandals face off against the Bulldogs 12 p.m. Saturday Feb. 4 in Spokane.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill