Pac-12 men’s tennis runs through Tucson.
No. 14 Arizona defeated No. 24 Washington 4-1 Sunday afternoon to earn its first Pac-12 championship in program history as the Wildcats went perfect in conference play.
The conference regular season title is a milestone achievement for coach Clancy Shields, who inherited one of the Pac-12’s bottom programs when he took the job in May 2016.
By beating Washington, Arizona (20-5, 7-0) clinched the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 Championship. The Wildcats will face No. 8 seed Cal Wednesday in Ojai, Calif.
The UA jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead over the Huskies by taking the doubles point. Colton Smith and Herman Hoeyeraal decisively won singles points in straight sets, while Jonas Ziverts lost his point.
Nick Lagaev clinched the match for Arizona with a straight set win.
“I’m really proud of our team, going undefeated in one of the toughest conferences in the country is special,” Shields said, according to Arizona Athletics. “The boys came out as warriors today. We had a lot of pressure on our back, and really all weekend we had a lot of pressure, so I am so proud of our guys for overcoming a lot of adversity and to getting it done today. To our seniors, what an incredible special moment for them to enjoy.”
The Wildcats are the first team to go undefeated in Pac-12 play since USC did so in 2014.
Arizona beat USC in LA for its second win over the Trojans since 2000. The UA later topped Stanford for the second time in program history and beat Cal for the first time since 2004.
Arizona missed out on playing UCLA, however, due to Covid-19 concerns in the Bruins program. UCLA finished the year 2-4 in conference play.
With a Pac-12 regular season title in tow, Arizona has likely assured itself a top 16 seed in the NCAA Championships. That means Arizona would get to host at least rounds one and two.
The Wildcats are coming off their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance a year ago.
The regular-season conference title marks a complete turnaround for Arizona men’s tennis under Shields. In his first two seasons as coach, the Wildcats went a combined 0-15 in conference play.
Since then, Arizona has emerged as a player on the national scene. This spring will mark the Wildcats’ third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and Shields could potentially win his third Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor in the last four years.