With less than 48 hours remaining until the opening round of the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament, two of the Bronco seniors, Kyle Dandan (KD) and Nicolas Vinel (NV), are preparing for the historic event that awaits them. In their final season as Broncos, Dandan and Vinel have helped lead Santa Clara to its first NCAA Tournament in school history. The two seniors caught up with SantaClaraBroncos.com to discuss what this accomplishment means to them and their expectations heading into Saturday.
Note: Fellow senior Max Armengaud suffered an injury but is listed as probable for the tournament.
SCB: What was going through your head when you first found out that the team received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament?
NV: I was really happy. The first thing that really came in my mind was pride. I was proud that my team to finally made it. We were so close the past two years, and we worked really hard this season. Unfortunately, our senior Max got injured (earlier in the season), so it was a tough moment. When we found out that we were in the tournament, it was a really happy and exciting moment.
KD: There were a lot of emotions going on that time (of the annoucement). I felt relieved, proud, excited, and thankful, yet humbled. My team really deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. We've worked so hard to reach this goal and knowing that we finally accomplished it was just an incredible feeling. It definitely was well deserved.
SCB: What have you been doing to prepare for the NCAA Tournament? Is it a similar routine or have you changed anything up?
NV: It's a similar routine. I don't want to change anything. It worked well this season, so I don't see any reason to change. We are doing the same thing, same preparation. It is really exciting to play in the NCAAs, but at the end of the day, it is just one more match.
KD: We all have different routines. Some people like to keep the same routine they've had all year. I personally try to focus more and try even harder to maintain that focus throughout practice. But regardless of the different routines we have, we have a collective mindset of what we have to do: take care of business.
SCB: Given that it is your senior season, what does this mean accomplishment mean to you?
NV: Making the NCAA tournament in my senior year, it is just a great feeling. The past two years, I went to the conference finals each time, so it was really frustrating not to make it. Now that we finally made it, I am just really happy and can't wait to play on Saturday. It means that what I did this season was right and I am glad that my work paid off for my last year in college.
KD: It means the world to me. Winning only four matches my freshman year was really tough and discouraging. Gladly, head coach Derek Mills was able to recruit really good players and implemented a new training program to turn things around. We were close my sophomore year. We were even closer my junior year, finishing as the runner-up in the WCC for the second straight year. We were also a spot or two from making it to the NCAAs that year. And now, we finally did it! Making it to the NCAAs for the first time in program history, in my senior year is just very special for me. I have been working hard for this opportunity since the moment I first set foot in Santa Clara and knowing that the tournament is just around the corner excites and motivates me even more. It is definitely one of the best feelings ever.
SCB: What are your expectations for the team heading into Saturday?
NV: We want to win. It is great that we made the NCAA tournament, but now our goal is to beat Texas. They have a great team, but we do too, so I am confident and we all have high expectations.
KD: I expect my team to just keep doing what they're doing, whatever it is. I expect each and every team member to do their part and take care of business. I trust my team. And I am very proud of them for what we have accomplished, regardless of the outcome this weekend.
NV: To play in the first round of NCAAs for the first time in the school history. It is a great feeling to represent Santa Clara and to be part of the first team ever to do that. We are expecting a big crowd so hopefully a lot of people will be there to support us. It is really fun for me to play in front of my friends all the time; I really enjoy it.
KD: I'm excited about everything. I'm excited about the atmosphere of the NCAA Tournament. I'm excited to finally represent Santa Clara in the NCAAs for the first time in front of the whole nation. I'm excited to see and hear the Santa Clara crowd cheering for us. I'm excited to live the dream. I have heard a lot of people are coming to root for us and that is very excited. Every Ruff Rider - you are invited!
Santa Clara, this is for you! Go Broncos!