Dragos Puscalau has waited a long time for Friday.
After redshirting his first year with the Washington men’s tennis team, the 6-foot-3 freshman from Newcastle, Wash., will finally compete in his first collegiate tournament this weekend with eight other Huskies at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northwest Regional Championship in Moraga, Calif., at Saint Mary’s College.
The regional tournament is one of 12 that will be played around the country this weekend. The winner of each individual tournament gets an automatic bid to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y., next month. The National Indoor Championships is considered to be the most exclusive of the three collegiate individual grand slams, as only 32 players qualify.
Nine Huskies will be traveling to California, where six of them will be starting their seasons, including Puscalau and true freshmen Nico Lunardi and Rishabh Raman, who will each be making their career debuts. Seniors Marton Bots and Kyle McMorrow and sophomore Emmett Egger began their seasons in Tulsa, Okla., two weeks ago at the ITA All-American Championships.
To say both freshmen are excited about their first college tournament would be an understatement, but Puscalau especially is ready to show what his year spent behind the scenes has done for his tennis game.
“I think my game style has matured,” Puscalau said. “I think I’m starting to play more intelligently; I’m paying more attention to my opponent rather than just my own game and playing more with purpose.”
After a few weeks in Seattle, Lunardi’s first road trip will take him straight back home. The 6-foot-5 native of Los Gatos, Calif., will be going back to northern California this week to the Saint Mary’s campus, which is about one hour north of his hometown. Lunardi loves Seattle so far, but he’s excited to hit the road with his teammates.
“I’m used to traveling to tournaments, but mostly as an individual,” Lunardi said. “So it’s going to be nice to go out there with the guys and have a group atmosphere to work off of.”
No matter how far Puscalau and Lunardi make it in this weekend’s tournament, they’ll be returning to Seattle by Wednesday next week with the first notches on their respective collegiate belts. And they’ll have the experience to take with them into the rest of their careers.
“It’ll be an eye-opener for them, being their first collegiate tournaments,” UW head coach Matt Anger said. “They’re going to get great experience on the court, but even off the court, just as far as being with the team and watching the other players. I think there’ll be a lot for them to take in and that experience will be invaluable.”
Reach reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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