For many, experience is a thing that will help to become more aware of one's surroundings. From simple repetition to being around people who have a lot of experience in a specific field, the element of experience is important for the growth of an individual.
There is no doubt that junior men's tennis player Matthew Perkins shares such experiences, as he enters his third year on the Gonzaga men’s tennis team. Perkins has been through multiple ups and downs, and he said he hopes he can teach his fellow and future teammates, becoming more of a leader than he already is.
“Coming into college, it is so much different than junior tennis, and you see guys who come in who are ranked really high who end up excelling, or guys who come in who aren’t ranked high but something in college just kind of sparks them to really make a big jump,” Perkins said. “I’ve kind of tried to be the person that leads really well by example.”
Perkins’ journey to tennis goes all the way back to when he was 5 years old. The West Linn, Oregon, native found a love for tennis from his mom, Joanie, who played collegiate tennis at St. Cloud State University, a Division II school in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Growing up, the professional player that Perkins idolized was tennis great Roger Federer. Although Perkins said his game isn't an exact parallel to the 20-time Grand Slam winner, the passion and focus he has towards tennis is what really draws his interest.
“I’ve seen him in person playing at the U.S. Open,” Perkins said. “I will always remember those memories, because that’s pretty cool.”
Perkins played all four years of high school at West Linn High School, where he earned all-state honors his junior and senior year, finishing fourth in the state tournament. Perkins also earned a spot in the first team all-league all four years of high school in addition to winning the Multnomah Athletic Club Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Although GU was not very high on his list to begin with, once he made his visit — conveniently his last — he knew he was at the right place.
“I didn’t know I was going to come here, but once I came my official visit and visited the school for the first time, that’s when I realized [it],” Perkins said. “Before, there were some other schools that maybe I was looking at more, but then once I was on campus, I was sold, and I knew I was coming here right away.”
GU men’s tennis head coach Jonas Piibor said he believes his leadership and experience will help this team going forward. Piibor said he does a lot of great things for the team, making him a great ambassador for the program.
“I think Matthew does a lot of great things for this team, a lot of things that may not show up in the stat sheet,” Piibor said. “[Perkins is] a really great ambassador for not only our team, but for the whole university and all the student athletes out in the community. He really embraces that part of being a student athlete.”
Freshman Eric Hadigian said that he really enjoys having Perkins on the team.
“I think Matt’s a great teammate,” Hadigian said. “He’s someone that a lot of us newcomers can kind of look at, and he leads us by example, whether it’s on the court with his work ethic or in the classroom, he’s someone we can look up to.”
In his first two years on the tennis team, Perkins’ time has been up and down. As a freshman, he finished 8-9 in singles play and reached the round of 32 in the Dar Walters Fall Classic in early October 2017. The following year would be a down year for Perkins, as he finished with a 4-9 record. Along with this and an injury, Perkins said it was one of the biggest challenges he has faced in his collegiate career. Rather than using this to bring him down, Perkins is using his bad experiences as motivation for him to continue to grow this season.
“Last year, I was not playing nearly as well as I would have expected or wanted to,” Perkins said. “This summer and this fall, that’s definetley been in the back of my mind, it’s pushing me to take that extra step and work a little bit harder just knowing that I do not want to repeat that.”
This season, Perkins has gotten off to a great start, as he recently won his draw in the Gonzaga Invitational earlier this month. Piibor is proud of Perkins’ tournament win, but is looking forward to what he can improve on going forward.
“I thought he showed some great tenacity and grit out there," Piibor said. "He’s really, really tough out there as far as fighting hard. He knows what he needs to do to continue to develop.”
All in all, Perkins and the Bulldogs are looking to make themselves a big name on campus, and with the help of Perkins and the community that is shared within the team, they have no doubt they can make a name for themselves this year, finishing last year with a 7-2 record and getting second place in the WCC standings.
“I feel like we have been doing that with our new coaching staff,” Perkins said. “They have implemented new ideals and values on the small things. Last year was our best finish in school history.”