Ute duo pulls off upset, but loses Hanza

The Utah men’s tennis team competed in the ITA All-American Championship last week in Tulsa, Okla. They had a great overall performance highlighted by the result of the doubles team.

The doubles pair, senior Cedric Willems and junior Matt Cowley, upset a nationally ranked opponent in the first round, besting the 39th-ranked Florida team 7-5, 6-7(5), 10-3. Their run ended the next round as they lost to a duo from Drake, 7-5, 6-7(0), 10-4.

In the singles portion, Willems and Cowley joined teammate Parker McGuiness as all three advanced past the first round, with Willems having a bye. Unfortunately for them, all three fell in the next round, despite both Willems and Cowley going to a third tiebreaking set. Willems went on to play in the consolation bracket where he won his match in straight sets.

Coach Roeland Brateanu was overall pleased with the way his team played during the tournament but was particularly happy with one of his captains, Willems.

“I was pretty satisfied with the progress we made,” Brateanu said. “Cedric played some very good tennis. He had four match points and almost got to the third round.”

Willems echoed his coach’s thoughts.

“I thought I played a really close match,” he said. “I executed the things that we had been working on in practice, and I thought I did them well.”

One major event of the tournament was the injury to one of Utah’s most well-known athletes, Slim Hanza. The senior suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the fall season. Hanza typically plays doubles with Willems which left the team in need of someone to take his place.

Enter Matt Cowley.

Cowley and Willems only had a couple days of practice to get used to one another before they competed in the tournament. They had never played doubles with each other before. Cowley welcomed this challenge with open arms.

“I was really excited, it was a great opportunity to play with a really good friend and teammate,” Cowley said.

Willems and Cowley were able to adjust quickly, evident by their victory over the ranked Gator duo. Communication is a big challenge in doubles, but for Cowley it wasn’t something that affected the team’s performance very much.

“I feel like me and Cedric communicated well,” Cowley said. “It was fun. It was a little shaky the first day, but we saw progress.”

After being an assistant coach since 2007, this season is the first for Brateanu as head coach of the Utes. While he is pleased with the early play of his team, Brateanu still hopes some of the changes that are being made will pay off in the end,

“We’re doing a lot of new things,” he said. “We’re running the program a little differently.”

The team next competes when the Utes host the Utah Intercollegiate Tournament this weekend.

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