SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Bronco men's tennis team has raced out to an exceptional start to the 2014 season and is firing on all cylinders. The squad has won seven consecutive matches and is 8-1 overall, including three wins over ranked opponents. The Broncos have skyrocketed up the national rankings to No. 43 in the country and find themselves in the hunt for the WCC title and a potential NCAA Tournament berth.
The Broncos' hot streak has coincided with the struggles of several WCC teams which has vaulted Santa Clara to second-highest WCC team in the national rankings. Perennial WCC favorite Pepperdine is the only team ahead of Santa Clara and it is now ranked No. 32. San Diego had been ranked No. 43 but has dropped to No. 66, and BYU was No. 49 but is no longer ranked.
In the WCC preseason poll, as voted on by conference coaches, Santa Clara was tied for fourth. The Broncos have clearly turned some heads and captured the attention of the WCC with its outstanding performance thus far.
Santa Clara Media Relations Director Michelle Young (MY) sat down with head coach Derek Mills (DM) to talk about the Broncos' performance and their upcoming weekend contests. Read more about the team's fast start and weekend matches.
MY: Let's talk about the matches at USF and versus Saint John's this weekend. One's a conference match and one is not. What are the important keys to both of these matches?
DM: The conference match is important because obviously we want to stay in the hunt for the WCC title. USF's got a pretty good team and we just have to be ready to go, especially because they play well at the California Club where we have to play them this Friday. So it's going to be a good challenge for us.
On Sunday against St. John's, I actually know the coach from several years ago, when he was at Northern Iowa and I was at Saint Louis. He's a really good coach and has his team prepared, so if we want to achieve our goals we have to beat them. I mean, we have no choice. So it's two really good challenges for us and, you know, we're going to have the guys ready to go.
MY: Is there anything special that you do to get ready? You obviously practice but do you have any different conversations about what you want to do?
DM: No, not really. We've always had the philosophy that we treat every match the same so we don't do anything special. We're just working on what we need to work on and just trying to execute it during the match.
MY: In your match at Gonzaga last week, your guys played really well. Talk a little about that.
DM: Yeah, it was good. It was 20 degrees, that was the high, and it was snowing the whole time. The weather was crazy. They have a brand new facility so they're really excited about that and the team plays very hard, but our guys were just really focused. We had one match and we were coming home so we just kind of took care of business. Very, very businesslike match for us. Yeah. It was good to see.
MY: You guys are on a seven-match winning streak. What are a couple reasons you guys are on this streak right now?
DM: The guys are really gelling together as an actual team. You know tennis is a pretty individual sport and we've really kind of come together as a team. Off the court and on the court it's producing results right now.
MY: And what do you think that's attributed to? The fact that they've played together for a couple of years or is there someone in particular?
DM: No, actually just because of our new guys. We've got some new guys that have really brought in some real positive personalities to the team. And it's been a big difference just being around the team and the team's performance. It's just a real positive vibe right now which has been great. Really nice.