By Josh Gandela
Heads of spectators turned left to right continuously as fluorescent yellow balls were struck back and forth.
Intense exchanges of ground strokes and volleys yanked players side to side, up to net and well behind the baseline, in the second conference matchup between Riverside City College and Saddleback College men’s tennis teams.
The RCC Tigers, who held an impressive 9-0 record going into the game, showed up to the courts ready, knowing their objectives, and did what they had to do to come out victorious against the Gauchos.
“As far as leadership qualities go, these guys are driven,” head coach Tom Yancey said. “They can run a lot of the practices on their own, so I think that’s why you’re seeing so much success on match days.”
Miles Clark and Elie-Noe Nicolay got things rolling for the Tigers with an 8-3 doubles win.
Number one singles player, Kayne Trustfull executed his gameplay well, maintaining control of his match and finishing at 6-0, 6-3.
Thomas Pidoux stepped onto the court soon after and dominated as well with a score of 6-1, 6-2.
Three other singles players burned through their matches with straight set victories, ending the day without dropping any singles or doubles matchups.
RCC men’s tennis has seen much success in its history, but since last season they made quite a leap in skill level as new players with tremendous talent joined the team.
Trustfull from the Netherlands, who has been playing since the age of four, and Pidoux from France, are two freshmen that lead the team as the top two singles players.
Cold weather may have been the reason for a small turnout, but the teammates and fans still kept the spirits up on the courts, applauding hard earned points and shouting encouraging comments.
As the team gets deeper into the Orange Empire Conference (OEC), a bigger support crowd can provide a positive atmosphere that the players enjoy and feed off of.
“The more people we have the better they play,” Yancey said. “If you’re looking for some of the best tennis in Southern California, this is the place to be.”
Trustfull wound down with his fellow team members as the final match of the day came to an end, securing the 9-0 sweep against the Gauchos.
“We will talk a little bit about this match, get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy food, say no to cigarettes, study opponents, and then we go for it. That’s how we do it every time and that’s how we are succeeding at the moment,” Trustfull said.
After a team huddle and a run down by the head coach of the team’s overall performance, the Tigers showed their respects to the opponents with a group chant, “1, 2, 3, Gauchos!”
Every conference match is a battle mentally and physically and a lot of matches can go either way, but the Tigers feel that state championships are within their reach.
“There’s definitely going to be a couple of good teams that are expected to be tough … hard to get past, but absolutely. It’s in our grasp,” Assistant Coach Colten Douglass said.
“We will try to keep our undefeated win streak,” Trustfull said. “We will fight for it, as a Tiger.”
The Tigers kept their streak intact — currently their record is 13-0 — and went on to defeat the Orange Coast College Pirates 9-0, the College of the Desert Roadrunners 6-3 and the Cypress College Chargers. They now shift their focus toward the worthy Irvine Valley Lasers on March 8.