Temple men’s tennis wins eight straight matches

The Owls have won eight straight matches with one to go before the conference tournament.

Junior Paolo Cucalon celebrates during Temple's 7-0 win against Lehigh University on March 24 at the Student Pavilion. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After Temple University men’s tennis lost to Penn on March 17, the players had a meeting. Even though the Owls lost only, 4-3, the players still felt it was necessary to regroup.

The players believed they should have beaten Penn. As they reflected on their loss, they set a challenge for themselves: work harder to make sure they win close matches against conference opponents.

Since the meeting, the Owls (13-6, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) have won eight consecutive matches. Temple could enter this week’s conference tournament on a nine-match win streak if it beats Eastern Florida State College on Tuesday.

“We decided to change our mentality and the attitude in practice,” senior Alberto Caceres Casas said. “Since that day, victories came.”

“The attitude was really good,” Caceres Casas added. “We just needed to work harder because it was a close match. We knew that we would have two conference matches that were more important. We decided to go for them and practice at 200 percent.”

Coach Steve Mauro hopes Temple’s recent success will give it momentum ahead of the conference championships held on Thursday to Sunday.

Temple started the streak by beating Hofstra University, 7-0, on March 21. The Owls earned conference wins against East Carolina and Tulsa in the fourth and sixth matches of the streak. Tulsa (14-11, 2-3 The American) was ranked 47th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings at the time of its match with Temple on April 7.

“Tulsa is always a top team in the country every year,” Mauro said. “To go on the road and be able to beat Tulsa was a huge accomplishment for our team. We know if we can beat Tulsa, we can compete with anyone in the country.”

Winning the doubles point has been key during the winning streak, Caceres Casas said. After their loss to Penn, the Owls stressed the importance of the doubles point, which they lost against Penn. 

Senior Alberto Caceres Casas returns the ball during the Owls’ 7-0 win against La Salle on Thursday at the Student Pavilion. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple has only lost one doubles point since the Penn match. In their match against Tulsa, the Owls won the doubles point, which was the deciding factor in a 4-3 win.

Caceres Casas and sophomore Mark Wallner are ranked No. 71 in the ITA’s top-90 doubles pairs released on April 9. Caceres Casas and Wallner are 15-3 and have lost only once since the Penn match.

Senior Uladzimir Dorash and junior Paolo Cucalon also have double-digit wins. Dorash and Cucalon are 12-3 and have not lost since the Penn match.

“We’re winning way more doubles points this year,” Wallner said. “That’s what makes the biggest difference because you can see how many matches we lost 4-3 and how many we won 4-3. It was always the doubles point that was deciding.”

The Owls’ other conference win came against Connecticut, 7-0, on March 9. Temple’s only conference loss came against Memphis (11-12, 2-4 The American). The Owls lost to Memphis, 5-2, but Caceres Casas and junior Francisco Bohorquez did not compete in the match.

Temple could have been undefeated in conference play if its full roster was healthy against Memphis, Mauro said.

“It was unfortunate we lost to Memphis,” Mauro said. “Memphis is also a very good team. If we had [Caceres Casas and Bohorquez], we might have been able to beat them.” 

The Owls could face nationally ranked competition during the conference tournament, which is played in Lake Nona, Florida.

The American has three top-50 teams — No. 32 Central Florida, No. 42 Tulane and No. 44 South Florida.

Though The American has multiple ranked teams, Mauro believes the Owls’ win streak will help the team get a favorable seeding in the conference tournament.

“The conference is very strong,” Mauro said. “It’s one of the top conferences in the country. I’m really happy with the guys’ effort. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”

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