SAN ANTONIO (May 12, 2017) – The men's tennis team at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) will leave campus on Saturday, May 13, for a 10-hour drive to Mobile, Ala., to begin their quest for a national title. The 66th Annual NAIA Men's Tennis National Championship will take place at the Mobile Tennis Center from May 16-20 and will feature 24 teams from throughout the country.
The Saints qualified for nationals after capturing their second consecutive Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) title at the NAIA Unaffiliated Group – Red River/Sooner Tournament in April. The Saints breezed through the tournament defeating John Brown University 5-0 in the semifinals round and Texas A&M University – Texarkana 5-0 in the championship finals.
When the Saints leave on Saturday, they will be short one person. Mathias Rocha (JR/Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil), Ross Marzetti (JR/Robigana, Tasmania, Australia), Warren Fulgenzi (FR/Las Vegas, N.M.), Pablo Cavazos (SO/Pharr, Texas), Jacob Galaviz (SR/El Paso, Texas) and Cornelio Gutierrez (SO/El Paso, Texas) will be on the bus with Head Coach Sal Castillo and Assistant Coach Patric Castillo. Conspicuously absent will be team captain and senior Bernardo Pegas (SR/Bage, RS, Brazil) – he has one more order of business to handle before he sets out for Alabama – graduation.
Pegas, who joined the team as a freshman in 2013 after coming here from Bagé, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, said, "These four years have gone by so fast. I'm going to miss practicing with my teammates and playing beside them at the tournaments. But I am ready to go out into the real world – going to nationals is the perfect way to end my career."
Galaviz, also a senior, plans to graduate in fall 2017. "The first time we went to nationals last year was different, but this time, we know what to expect, so we're ready."
"I am super excited to make my second trip to nationals with the guys. We have a lot to prove that we deserve to be there. I think we will do a lot of damage as long as we play to our potential," Marzetti said.
Cavazos commented, "I think we will do well, and I can't wait to start playing."
Rocha, the team's top seed, is also super excited about the opportunity. "I am ready, and we are all confident. We have been working hard at practice all year long."
Fulgenzi, in his first year with the Saints, is excited that his father, Warren Sr. will be traveling to Alabama to watch him play. "It's going to be fun to be able to play at nationals. I can't wait."
The team expects to arrive in Alabama late Saturday, and on Sunday, the men will rise early to get in some practice. While they are practicing, Pegas will be putting his graduation regalia on to get set to walk the stage at 4:30 p.m. at Our Lady of the Lake University's (OLLU) Commencement ceremonies at the Freeman Coliseum. He will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis on Journalism.
"We are all very proud of Bernie," Galaviz said. Gutierrez calls him a great role model. "He demonstrates his character both on and off the court, and he leads by example."
Most of all, Pegas is excited that his mother Lucia, father Hugo and sister Manoela, will be traveling from Brazil to be here for graduation and for the tournament. "It will be the first time that they will see me play at this level.
"I couldn't have done any of the things I accomplished without them. But also I would not be where I am today without my girlfriend Danielle Ledesma. Because of her, I was a better student." Ledesma graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice at OLLU.
On Monday, the Saints and the 23 other teams at nationals will take part in a Champions of Character event, and then attend the banquet Monday evening. By then Pegas will be with the team and ready to compete on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. against William Woods University.
Castillo thinks the team will do very well, as long as they don't let what happened to them last year happen again this year. "They were all like deer in headlights. They were scared. This year, I've told them to just play and give 100 percent. Don't play to win, just play your game.
"I tell them just being at nationals is a great accomplishment. Not many teams get to go – only 24 actually. So don't be afraid, don't try to hit the amazing shots, don't try to be fancy, just play your game, listen to my coaching, and whatever the outcome, I will be proud of you."