Tough mens tennis loss at Ojai

Posted: April 29, 2015 | Written by Victor Gallegos & Alexis Naucler

Riverside City College men’s tennis coach Carlos Vazquez was awarded Orange Empire Conference coach of the year for the 2015 season.

Vazquez must be pleased with his team’s efforts this year, and the award is a reflection of the team’s hard work.

After stepping in for head coach Jim Elton this season due to injury, Vazquez inherited a team, which was returning only two of six starters from the previous year.

With no team continuity from the year before, as well as a mixture of incoming international players arriving for their first season with RCC, it was up to Carlos to mesh a feeling of comfort as well as instill a winning mentality.

Luckily, the Spanish born coach is no stranger to coaching kids.

He noted that he has been coaching since a young age beginning when he, as an aspiring ATP top player, would teach his younger peers the game.

“I learned from all the great coaches around me, and now I am able to give back,” Coach Vazquez said while conducting an afternoon practice. “You have to understand it to teach it.”

Aside from coaching the RCC men’s team, Carlos also is used by the United States Professional Tennis Association to teach other instructors.

His coaching techniques focus on all aspects of the tennis game.

“Tennis is mental, physical and emotional,” Vazquez said.

Indeed, and Vazquez’s practices leave players with a sense of purpose and direction. It simply is not just practice for fun.

“I feel like I improved in some aspects of my game with Carlos,” said RCC tennis player Mathieu Willockx. “I know that I can improve more.”

It will also be a positive to have players with Willockx’s ambition for improvement returning for next season.

The coach of the year has some help.

In order to qualify for the Ojai Tournament players had to make it to the third round of the OEC Tournament. Those who qualified for singles at Ojai include; sophomore Connor Stephenson, Willockx and freshman Antoine Voisin. As for doubles, Stephenson is partnered up with fellow sophomore Patrick Stetco, Willockx with freshman Edward Riman and Voisin with freshman Grady Harrell.

“The mentality changes right now, because you’re on your own,” Vazquez said. “They have to realize that this is their time to shine individually.”

When compared to last year, RCC only had four players going to Ojai, David Stanko and Danny Garcia for singles; Stetco competed with Stanko for doubles and Stephenson with Garcia. Having an increase of players who made it to Ojai, Vazquez feels the team has improved.

“Last year we had two players who were above everybody else…this year, it was the opposite, everybody was the same,” Vazquez said. “It brings you more stability to the team but it doesn’t give you a guaranteed win when you need it.”

Doubles matches for the Tigers resulted in Stephenson and Stetco stopping short at the second round after falling to Palomar 6-3, 6-1. Harrell and Voisin also fell in the second round to Foothill 6-3, 6-2. Willockx and Riman made it to the third round before coming behind Foothill 3-6, 6-3, 10-2 in what seemed to be a pretty close match.

“My doubles partner and I didn’t do as well as we wanted to,” Stetco said. “(He) was really tired from his previous matches which caused him to not play so good in our doubles match.”

Stephenson lost to San Diego Mesa 6-0, 6-0 in the second round. Voisin lost to Foothill 6-4, 6-3 in the second as well. Willockx fell to La Pierce in the third round, in a back-and-forth set that ended in 6-3, 6-7, and 7-6.

The Tigers finished their season second place in conference with a record of 13-7.

Photos taken by Alexis Naucler