Coming into the fall season, the Gonzaga University men’s tennis team was faced with new challenges than just coming off a season interrupted by COVID-19. In May, to conclude the fall season, Jonas Piibor, former head coach for the program, decided to step away and not return to the program.
This void was quickly filled with the appointment of former women’s head coach D.J. Gurule. Gurule, after spending 17 years on the sideline of the women’s team, transitioned to coaching a men’s program on the rise in the West Coast Conference (WCC) and around the nation.
“We are so pleased with the development across the board from the team,” Gurule said. “They have exceeded everything we have asked of them.”
To start the season, the team traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in the Easley Memorial Classic. Three Zags came out victorious in the four day tournament, as junior Matthew Hollingworth and sophomore Sasha Truklja defeated a pairing from San Diego State University 8-6 in the men’s doubles final. Pablo Gomez Galvan, a sophomore, defeated fellow Zag, Tom Hann after he was forced to retire with an injury in the second set.
The first weekend of October saw the Zags travel to Tucson, Arizona, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as Hollingworth and Truklja represented GU at the ITA All American Championships while the rest of the squad went to the Arizona Invitational. Truklja managed a finish in the Round of 64, bowing out to Julian Steinhausen of SMU in straight sets after wins on the opening days of the tournament.
At the Arizona Invitational, two Zags competed for bracket championships, with both student-athletes coming out on top. Junior Leon Roider and Freshman Arthus De La Bassetiere both took home bracket championships. Roider won, 7-5, 7-5, over Hiroki Sakagawa of the University of Arizona to come out on top in the Red Draw. De La Bassetiere won his match comfortably in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, over Alex Maggs of New Mexico to capture the White Draw bracket win.
“I think that the team has definitely stepped it up a level this year,” Truklja said. “We have all matured on the court as we have taken more responsibility and ownership.”
This ownership has been paying off for the team and for Truklja as he and Hollingworth have competed deep into the ITA Super Regionals throughout the fall.
Truklja and Hollingworth found their way into the semifinals after a tough 8-6 win over a pairing from the University of Washington before taking on a duo from Stanford in the semifinals. In the semifinals, the Zags got entrenched in a three set battle that saw the duo wind up on top, 2-6, 6-4, 10-8. The pairing would bow out in the finals to another pairing from Stanford, 6-1, 6-2.
“This fall has definitely been a great learning experience for me,” Truklja said. “I look forward to using the experience I have gained once the spring season arrives.”
The big tournament of the fall season came at home for GU as they hosted the Gonzaga Invitational on the last weekend of October. Three Zags ended up on top of the podium in their respective brackets. Junior Oliver Andersson and Roider teamed up to defeat the pairing of De La Bassetière and Portland's Julien Penzlin, with De La Bassetière and Penzlin coming out on top, 8-7(4)
On the singles side of the bracket, Roider defeated Gomez Galvan 6-2, 6-2 in the white bracket. In the blue bracket, Hann defeated Andersson 4-3 after retiring in the first set
The tournament wrapped up the fall season for the team, but the duo of Truklja and Hollingworth continued in the ITA Fall Championships. The duo bowed out of the competition in the consolation rounds losing to a pairing from the University of Arkansas, 6-0, 7-5.
Looking forward to the spring season, the team is coming in with loads of momentum and experience on their shoulders. This experience and depth from the fall season can expect to pay dividends for the Zags come WCC season.
“I believe the sky is the limit for these guys,” Gurule said. “We are all excited to compete together as a team.”