AAC men’s tennis seeding still in the balance for Temple

Temple’s final conference match is on the road on Saturday against nationally ranked Memphis.

Junior Alberto Caceres Casas hits a shot during the Owls’ 7-0 win against La Salle on Friday at Legacy Tennis Center in East Falls. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple remained undefeated at Legacy Tennis Center this season by beating Connecticut on March 31 and defeating La Salle, 7-0, on Friday.

The Owls’ 4-1 win against UConn marked their first conference win of the season.

“It was really important for the seeding for the conference tournament because right now we don’t have to play the No. 1 seed,” junior Alberto Caceres Casas said. “But it was just another match like the other ones this season. They’re just as important.”

The Owls (11-8, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) only have one conference match remaining this season against Memphis on Saturday in Tennessee.

Memphis was ranked No. 17 in the April 3 Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and has an 11-match winning streak. Memphis and two other American Athletic Conference teams — No. 38 Central Florida (10-8, 1-1 The American) and No. 26 Tulane (15-6, 3-1 The American) — are ranked in the ITA poll.

The Tigers (16-4, 4-0 The American) have two athletes ranked among the ITA’s top 125 singles players. Senior Ryan Peniston is ranked 47th and senior Andrew Watson is ranked 110th.

Peniston and Watson are each ranked 43rd in the ITA’s top 90 doubles combinations. They have a 10-7 record this spring. One of Peniston and Watson’s wins is a 6-1 victory on March 7 against Tulane sophomore Ewan Moore and senior Constantin Schmitz, the No. 54 doubles pair in the ITA.

Temple’s matchup against Memphis will not be the first time Temple faces a ranked team this season. On Jan. 21, Temple lost to then-No. 12 University of Virginia, 4-3.

Coach Steve Mauro said his team is up to the challenge. The Owls have faced Memphis in each of their past three seasons. The Tigers were ranked in the ITA poll each time and never conceded a point to Temple.

“Memphis is going to be a really big match,” Mauro said. “They’re a very strong team. They’re always top 50 in the country. It’s tough going there and playing on their courts, but the guys are really motivated for it.”

If Temple beats Memphis, it would clinch its first winning record in conference play since the 2013-14 season. During that season, the Owls only played one conference match, a 5-1 victory against UConn on March 29, 2014.

Before the 2013-14 campaign, Temple last had a winning conference record during the 2012-13 season when it finished with a 4-3 record in its final season in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The Owls’ only conference loss this season came against East Carolina on Feb. 16. Senior Thomas Sevel and sophomore Eric Biscoveanu didn’t play in the 5-2 loss. Sevel also missed the matchup against UConn due to an arm injury. Sevel suffered the injury in Temple’s 6-1 loss to Drexel on March 29 and was forced to concede his match as a result.

Junior Uladzimir Dorash also missed the match against UConn and will be out for the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. Dorash has not played since March 17.

Mauro said the rest of the team needs to stay healthy to give it the best chance of winning the conference tournament, which is from April 19-22 in Dallas.

“Anytime we’ve been healthy, I don’t think we lost a match,” Mauro said. “We need to be healthy. Unfortunately, Uladzimir is going to be out for the rest of the season. But, hopefully, the other guys can step up and take his spot.”

Freshman Mark Wallner said the team’s win against UConn (4-13, 0-1 The American) previewed what the conference tournament atmosphere will look like.

“They were one of the weakest [teams],” Wallner said. “The other teams in the conference tournament are going to be really good. It kind of gave us an insight of the audience and how loud the cheering is going to be.”

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