LOS ANGELES—The Occidental men's tennis team faced off against the No. 24 team in the country Monday afternoon knowing it would be a big test for a young squad featuring only one senior and a new head coach.
But what they did not know was how dominating their 7-2 victory over Brandeis University would be.
Oxy set the tone early, sweeping all three doubles matches against the visiting Judges.
"Our emphasis on doubles paid off in a big way," Occidental men's tennis coach Brian Newhall said. "We have been spending 50% of our practice time solidifying our doubles teams. Our top four teams are all very even and improving constantly."
Jeremy Shapiro (Scottsdale) and Jordan Brown (San Diego) defeated the No. 1 pair from Brandeis 8-4. Playing in the No. 2 slot, Stephen Perkins (Seattle) and Spencer Choy (Aiea, HI) held their opponents to one game, winning by a final score of 8-1. In the final doubles matchup, Ben Herrington-Gilmore (Stillwater, MN) and Jamie Grossman (Tiburon) defeated the Judges' No. 3 squad 8-4.
"This was a big win for our program," said Newhall. "Our hard work at practice really showed up today. All of the guys came to compete."
The Tigers showed little sign of relenting when the match switched to singles play.
The Judges managed to pick up two victories out of six singles matches, but they were not contests easily won for Brandeis.
Nothing on Monday afternoon was easy.
"We battled, scrapped, and fought for every point, game, and set. I was thrilled with the level of focus and intensity that we displayed all afternoon.
"This is a new Occidental men's tennis program," said the first year head coach. "We have a new intensity; a new focus; new goals. We are new, improved, and hungry."
Newhall's players demonstrated they share his passion to change the course of Oxy tennis in the nationally dominant SCIAC.
"Through out all our practices and the weeks leading up to now, Coach Newhall has been telling us how we have been improving by leaps and bounds," sophomore Ben DeLuca (San Francisco) said. "We didn't come into the match expecting to get blown away because they were a nationally ranked team.
"Everyone came in playing hard, expecting to do well. And we did."
Credit Newhall for the change in attitude amongst his thirteen players.
"Practices have been really good," the junior Perkins said. "We've come together as a team. Newhall has us working harder than we ever have before. He has established a winning mentality."
After Kevin Siebs lost the No. 1 singles match (6-1, 6-4), Oxy won four straight with Shapiro at No. 2 (6-3, 6-3), Perkins at No. 4 (6-2, 6-4), Choy at No. 5 (6-2, 6-3), and No. 3 Brown battling through a tie breaker to win 7-5, 2-6, (10-6).
"Over the last few years Occidental has been a talented team with lots of depth," Herrington-Gilmore said. "But commitment, focus, and competitiveness were lacking, and it showed in our results.
"Between Coach Newhall, individual players stepping it up, and a renewed work ethic, we're beating teams like Brandeis."
The Tigers hope to take the momentum from Monday's match and carry it through to Biola University on Friday and then No. 8 Pomona-Pitzer the following Saturday.
Pomona is the first of five SCIAC schools Oxy will face that are ranked nationally. But for the tennis program it is just another opportunity for Occidental to make waves on the national scene.
"We went into this match seeing it as a really good opportunity playing a top ranked team and knowing we could win," Perkins said.
"We knew it would be tough, but we beat them convincingly. We seized the opportunity."