San Antonio – They went in without a win to their name and came out with the No. 1 rank in the Heartland Conference.
Having to hold their rackets longer than usual, the Rattlers (2-7, 2-1 in conference) played a three-match stretch on the road last weekend, facing three different opponents including two from conference.
St. Mary’s fell in its first match against Collin Country Community College, 2-7, but clinched its next two over the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, 6-3, and earned a shutout over Dallas Baptist University, 9-0. Swinging with their second wind when it counted against conference contenders not only launched the Rattlers to the top seed, but also earned them a Heartland Conference Player of the Week in Carlos Olea (So., Matamoros, Mexico), who battled with full strength in all three matches to go undefeated.
Olea came out in his first singles competition with the winning attitude that earned him recognition from the conference, trumping Casey Clark for a 6-1, 6-3 victory that gave St. Mary’s one of its two points for the day. Freshman Mateo Martinez (San Antonio) was ready to make his mark as a Rattler, defeating Aristotle Chu 6-5 in the first match before he retired in the second, giving Martinez St. Mary’s final point of the day, 7-2.
The second match of the weekend against Arkansas-Fort Smith saw St. Mary’s light up for a 6-3 win and Olea go into extra, extra swings. His victory over Evan Daniel started with Olea winning the first set 6-3 and falling 0-6 in the second. The third set saw numbers in the teens with each player battling back and forth until Olea got the upper hand to win the match, 16-14. Jake Williams (Sr., Dallas) and Andrej Klipa (Jr., Belgrade, Serbia) also had victories in three-set matches of 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 and 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, respectively. Williams teamed up with Marcin Marczewski (Sr., Warsaw, Poland) for an 8-2 doubles win, and Klipa and Michael Ortiz had an 8-4 win. Nestor Moreno (Sr., Bogota, Colombia) had the final point of the day with a 6-1, 7-5 victory to end the day, 6-3.
The Rattlers’ final action of the three-match weekend saw each Rattler take the lead of undefeated Olea, closing out Dallas Baptist 9-0. Olea battled for another three-set win, defeating D. Allen 2-6, 6-3, 10-7. Williams, Michael Oritz, Moreno, Martinez and Klipa also picked up victories in singles competition. Doubles competition also experienced a sweep from St. Mary’s with Marczewski and Williams, Klipa and Oritz, and Moreno and Martinez all pulling out a win to close a two-match winning streak with the shutout over Dallas Baptist, 9-0.
The Rattlers’ success in conference play put them at the top of rankings and earned them a Player of the Week for the second week running. After a tough opening season that caused them to experience seven straight losses over nationally ranked and Division I teams, the Rattlers’ strategy of challenging top competitors has paid off. St. Mary’s has seemed to prime its players at the right pace and now is seeing the benefits as evident from this past weekend.
St. Mary’s hopes to continue its recent success going this Saturday against non-conference Southeastern Oklahoma State University back at home at 9 a.m.