After two tough losses last week against ranked opponents, the Idaho menâ€™s tennis team hosted their first home competition of the season Saturday against Big Sky opponent Portland State.
The Vandals defeated the Vikings 6-1 at the Memorial Gym Courts to improve the teamâ€™s record to 12-5 overall and 6-2 in conference play.
Idaho head coach Abid Akbar said last weekâ€™s road trip provided the Vandals with experience competing against tough opponents.
â€œI wanted them to stay mentally and physically ready before our next competition,â€ Akbar said. â€œIt made Saturdayâ€™s match a bit easier for us because we had to play tougher opponents and that plan went well.â€
Akbar said he was glad that the Vandals claimed the victory on their home court.
â€œWe were able to win today, convincingly,â€ Akbar said. â€œPlaying at home helps. Our guys are used to these conditions. We just need to continue like this with our next two home matches which will put in us in a good position for the championship.â€
Sophomore Felipe Fonseca said the team played with a lot of confidence at home.
â€œThe guys played really good,â€ Fonseca said. â€œIt was important to play Portland State because they beat some good teams and we stayed confident Saturday.â€
Fonseca and senior Odon Barta won their doubles match against Portland Stateâ€™s Nathan Boniel and Wil Cochrane 6-1 on the No. 2 court to provide the Vandals with momentum.
â€œOdon and I play doubles really good,â€ Fonseca said. â€œWe have a good chemistry and if we play like we did Saturday, we can win every match.â€
The Vandals scored the point in doubles after freshman Lucas Coutinho and sophomore Mark Kovacs defeated Ian and Russell Risenhoover 6-3.
Akbar said earning the point in doubles helps the Vandalsâ€™ confidence level.
â€œWith teams that are even, doubles play is the difference most of the time,â€ Akbar said. â€œToday we came out strong in doubles. We have really been working hard on our doubles play. We have been using the same pairingsâ€”you need those players to play for a while to get the chemistry and understating.â€
Idaho continued its strength in singles matches, winning on five of the six courts. Coutinho defeated Russell Risenhoover 6-4, 6-3 on the No. 6 court to clinch the victory.
Kovacs earned a two-set victory over Wil Cochrane on the No. 4 court.
Akbar said Kovacs played well against a challenging opponent.
â€œIt was close in the start of the match but came out strong in singles,â€ Akbar said. â€œMark also had a good doubles and playing a good doubles helps out on starting singles well. He continued to do pretty well and never let Cochrane come very close.â€
Kovacs was ahead 4-1 in the second set, but lost two of the three deuce points which cut his lead to 4-3. Kovacs later pulled out the set win to extend Idahoâ€™s lead to 3-1.
Kovacs said the win in singles was a benefit to playing in Moscow.
â€œIt was definitely good to play a home game,â€ Kovacs said. â€œThe first set went pretty quickly but the second was a little harder. Lot of deuce and deciding points but Iâ€™m happy that I was able to pull it off at the end.â€
Other Vandal winners included freshman Artem Vasheshnikov and senior Jackson Varney.
The final point in singles favored the Vandals and lasted three sets. Fonseca overcame a second set loss to defeat slow-paced opponent Ethan Lopez 6-4, 4-6, 10-5.
Akbar said Lopez proved a difficult opponent for Fonseca.
â€œEthan was playing consistent,â€ Akbar said. â€œHe doesnâ€™t play with a lot of pace so you have to be patient with a guy like him. Felipe stayed patient except in the second set where he lost a little bit of patience and it cost him the set.â€
Fonseca said he did not perform the way he had hoped for in singles.
â€œI was expecting to play a little better,â€ Fonseca said. â€œEthan was solid at the baseline and his game style was annoying. He could grind and return every single ball. So I had to focus on each point.â€
Fonseca said Akbar told him to remain focused and make the right choices in the third set.
Idaho will return to the Memorial Gym Courts at noon Wednesday to host Big Sky foe Eastern Washington.
â€œWe have the home advantage,â€ Fonseca said. â€œIt can help us and Iâ€™m sure the crowd will also make the difference. The other guys can feel the pressure of playing on the road.â€
Luis Torres can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TheLTFiles