Temple men’s tennis ends season with program-best postseason

The Owls made the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal for the first time.

Senior Alberto Caceres Casas returns the ball during Temple’s 7-0 win against LaSalle at the Student Pavilion on April 11. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After Temple University men’s tennis defeated nationally ranked Tulane in the American Athletic Conference tournament, coach Steve Mauro’s phone kept ringing.

The Owls’ upset win on Friday in the conference tournament sent them to the semifinals for the first time in program history — and fellow coaches were quick to give Mauro and his team praise. 

“It definitely helped put Temple on the map,” Mauro said. “It was a huge win and right after the game my phone was buzzing with texts and calls saying congratulations on the big win.”

Temple (16-7, 3-1 The American) ended the regular season on a nine-match winning streak and entered the conference tournament as the No. 7 seed. The Owls knocked off No. 10 seed Connecticut and No. 2 Tulane in the first two rounds of the conference tournament.

Temple’s run came to an end after falling to South Florida, the conference’s No. 3 seed, 4-1, on Saturday in Orlando, Florida. Despite losing one match short of the conference championship, Mauro is pleased with his team’s performance, he said.

“Even though it ended in a loss, we are happy about how this season went,” he added. “We had confidence going into the tournament, despite our low seed, that we could go in there and compete with anyone, and I think we proved that.”

USF (17-7, 4-1 The American) defeated Temple and beat No. 1 Central Florida, 4-3, in the championship match on Sunday. USF has won The American’s title in five of the conference’s six seasons.

Temple started strong against USF, the No. 46 team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings, by claiming the doubles point after winning two of the three matches. Temple clinched the doubles point. Juniors Juan Araoz and Eric Biscoveanu, and the pair of junior Paolo Cucalon and senior Uladzimir Dorash, both won their doubles matches, 6-3. 

The other doubles match did not finish because Temple already won the necessary two matches to win the point.

The Owls carried its momentum into singles play as senior Alberto Caceras Casas nearly won the first set against USF Alberto Barroso-Campos. Caceras Casas fell 7-6, 6-4 to Barroso Campos, who is ranked as the No. 18th-best singles player by the ITA. 

“Maybe if we won that point we would have been a little more pumped up,” Mauro said. “But that’s how it goes sometimes. Either team could have won that day, it was just a matter of a point here, and a point there not going our way.”

USF received a first-round bye, while Temple didn’t. The matchup on Saturday was the Owls’ third match in three days. While Mauro doesn’t believe fatigue played a major role, he said not having an extended time off could have affected the team’s ability to close out the matches.

The Bulls went on to win the next three singles matches to advance to the finals. USF junior Jakub Wojcik ended to Temple’s season after defeating Dorash, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

On Friday, Temple earned its 11th consecutive victory with a 4-3 upset win against Tulane, the No. 39 team in the ITA rankings and last season’s conference champion.

The Owls outlasted the Green Wave in a four-hour long match, ending with Cucalon winning the third-set tiebreaker against Tulane junior Luis Erlenbusch.

“That match was one of the most memorable I have been a part of during my time at Temple,” Mauro said. “We enjoyed that day and the emotion of winning, but we had to settle down and get focused for our match against USF the next day.”

Before this performance, the Owls had compiled a 2-5 record in the conference tournament and never made it past the quarterfinal since the league’s inaugural 2014 season.

Mauro credits the team’s work ethic and confidence during matches to Temple’s success this season. Mauro knew the Owls could have a successful season after the team’s 4-3 road win against the University at Buffalo on Feb. 2. 

“After traveling on the road a defeating a quality program like Buffalo gave me a good feeling this team can be successful,” Mauro said. “The guys really wanted it this year. And they went out and made a name for Temple with a strong season.

Next season, Temple will have to replace Dorash and senior Alberto Caceres Casas, who will graduate in May. But, Mauro is confident Temple can carry its success into next season.

“We’re going to try and build from here,” Mauro added. “We know we can compete with anyone, know we want to win [the conference] next year. And to build off of that, possibly get ranked as a top-30 team in the nation next season.”

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