The Vandals saw their up and down season come to an end on May 10 as they fell 4-0 to the top-ranked USC Trojans in the opening round of the NCAA men’s tennis tournament.
The loss dropped Idaho’s final record to 11-14 on the season.
Despite a tenacious effort by the Vandals, the No. 1 overall-seeded Trojans’ superior skill proved to be too much. The Vandals did not win a single set in the three singles matches that were completed.
“They’re ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. “But guys at certain spots really did well and they showed what their potential was, sort of like how they turned it around at the end of the year. To be able to push USC in certain singles and doubles matches just shows the potential that we did have.”
The Vandals missed out on an opportunity to potentially win one of the matches as USC claimed victories at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles matches before the No. 1 doubles match that pitted Idaho’s top-pairing Jose Bendeck and Cristobal Ramos Salazar against USC’s Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento, the top pairing in the nation. The match was all tied up at 6-6 at the time of the suspension.
“If we complete the doubles point we’re right there. They had a good chance against the No. 1 doubles team in the country.” Beaman said “They (Bendeck and Ramos Salazar) have the potential to compete with anybody in the country. It’s just unfortunate that with the format they didn’t get the chance to finish the match.”
With that being the last match of Bendeck’s college career he wanted to go out fighting, and he and his partner of the last two years definitely did that, Beaman said.
Beaman was impressed with Ramos Salazar’s performance against USC, noting he has fought through other nagging injuries all year, including a forearm injury that sidelined him for close to a month.
“This wasn’t the result they guys wanted, but just to be competitive with the best team in the nation and a lineup filled with nationally ranked players, just puts what we will be competing against in the Big Sky in perspective.” Beaman said “They now know they can compete with these guys and hopefully improve, we could be a very good team moving forward.”
After the match Beaman let the four seniors on the team know that they have been a part of something special and regardless of the individual and team results, they helped bring a WAC championship and an NCAA tournament berth to the program for the first time ever. He told them it’s something they will always have, and is something they could be proud of.
Bendeck and Artemiy Nikitin, two of the four graduating seniors, plan on coming back next year as volunteer assistants. Beaman is hopeful that the experience they’ve gained this year and throughout their entire careers will be able to help parlay onto the coaching side.
Beaman may need the additional help as well as the NCAA tournament berth has already put Idaho on the map on the recruiting side of things, he said.
Beaman said that since Idaho has defeated New Mexico State in the WAC Championship, many potential transfers and recruits have contacted the program about possibly joining the team, although nothing can officially be said regarding recruits or transfers until the official paperwork is signed and submitted. If the program continues to improve and grow, the interest should only increase, Beaman said.
Joshua Gamez can be reached at email@example.com