by Brady Johnson
Athletic Communications Assistant
EUGENE, Ore. – Records, rivals and ranked opponents, oh my.
Yes, it’s shaping up to be a dramatic weekend for the No. 43 Oregon men’s tennis team. As associate head coach Jonas Piibor put it, it won’t take any extra effort to motivate the team. With their rivals from the north and the 15th-ranked team in the nation coming to town, the motivation is apparent.
Oregon (9-1) opens the weekend Friday, hosting the Huskies (6-4) at 5 p.m. (PT). Two days later, the Ducks will reset for another talented squad – Boise State. Oregon will meet the No. 15 Broncos at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Both matches are free of charge at the Student Tennis Center.
With a singles victory in either match, senior Robin Cambier will become the program’s all-time winningest singles player with 85 career wins - not that he’s paying attention.
Cambier knows the precise date UO last beat the Huskies; Feb. 29, 2004, to be exact. Nearly 10 years ago, Oregon pulled out a 4-3 victory in Eugene fueled by singles and doubles wins from Sven Swinnen, with whom Cambier is currently tied with for the program singles wins mark.
Between that victory and now, UW has reeled off a streak of 18 straight wins and has claimed the upper-hand in the series. While they’re approaching this match as they would any other, the Ducks are hungry to end UW’s totalitarian rule.
Cambier is particularly motivated for the match. The Brussels, Belgium, native had never heard of the Ducks-Huskies rivalry until arriving in Eugene as a freshman. Once he did, it was his roommate – Alex Rovello – that taught him the significance of the rivalry. On Friday, Cambier has the chance to break the singles wins record in this massive rivalry match, playing on Alex Rovello Court, no less.
“Alex knew about the rivalry since he was a kid, and he was the one that taught me about it,” said Cambier. “So, it means a lot to me personally. To play against Washington, on Alex’s court, with a shot at the record – it’d be tough to script it any better than that.”
Two of the past three meetings between the schools have been 4-3 decisions in favor of UW. In a once dormant series, head coach Nils Schyllander has developed a program that’s now capable of swinging the balance of power in their favor.
Oregon carded a 17-7 record in 2012 and went 16-8 last season, its winningest two-year stretch in almost a decade. Yet, neither of those seasons produced a positive result against the Huskies. This season, the Ducks are off to a 9-1 spot and have climbed to No. 43 on the polls. Is it finally Oregon’s time to break through?
UO’s recent results suggest they’re perhaps as poised as they’ve ever been to win the rivalry match. The Ducks are riding a six-match win streak and have shutout three straight opponents. Every player to see singles action this spring is currently riding a win streak, while Oregon has two doubles teams that have won five straight matches.
Long story short, this year’s Ducks are loaded throughout the lineup. Whether or not that produces a win on Friday night depends on the better team in the moment.
“We know them; they know us,” said Piibor. “It’s going to come down to who is aggressive and plays the best on that day. Our guys need to embrace that and enjoy the moment.”
Whatever result Friday night produces, the Ducks need to quickly ground themselves for Sunday’s clash against Boise State. The Broncos won the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic last week with three impressive wins, and catapulted from No. 41 to No. 15 in the ITA national rankings.
As important as Friday’s rivalry match is, Sunday’s will be just as vital with high rankings at stake.
“Boise State speaks for themselves – they’re the 15th-ranked team in the country so you know what to expect right there,” said Schyllander.
With records, rivalry bragging rights and rankings on line, there are sure to be many big moments at the Student Tennis Center this weekend. Cambier and the Ducks feel confident that the spotlight won’t be too bright.
“We’re not concerned with anything other than being prepared for the weekend,” said Cambier. “I feel really confident about our team. I think we’re ready for this.”