Alex Cronje reaches to hit a backhand lob. Photos courtesy of Jeff Huehn/UTSA Athletics

In his second season as UTSA men’s head tennis coach, Rodrigo Da Silva’s expectations for the 2017 season will not be centered on wins nor losses; instead, his focus is on creating a culture of accountability, intensity and competitiveness on and off the tennis court.

“The culture I’m trying to create is that we’re going to be accountable in every aspect, on the court, off the court; everything we are going to do, we’ll be accountable for,” Da Silva said after a recent team practice. “After you learn how to be responsible in class and be friendly to people, you become a better person and a better tennis player.”

The UTSA men’s tennis team enters the spring campaign as one of the younger teams in Conference-USA.

After posting an atrocious 3-20 record during the 2016 season, Da Silva will rely heavily on Fabian Brand, a junior and the most experienced player on the team, in helping to develop the seven freshmen on the roster and to lay the foundation for future Roadrunner teams.

Junior Fabian Brand stares across the net at his opponent.

Junior Fabian Brand stares across the net at his opponent.

“Matches are won by having great energy, and that’s what we’re trying to (instill) in them in every practice, every day,” said Brand. “We are trying to be super intense. Coach has one rule. We need to be mentally engaged and physically intense. We are trying to get great energy in practice every day.”

The Runners will need to bring a competitive spirit into every match this season because they will face notable teams like nationally ranked UT (4) on Jan. 12 in Austin, Texas Tech on Feb.10 in Lubbock and Rice University on March 12 in Mississippi. Before the Conference-USA tournament in April, UTSA will host Navy, Marquette University and Trinity University, all highly competitive teams.

If there is one word to describe this season’s team and give Roadrunner fans something to look forward to, Coach Da Silva summed it up by saying UTSA will be “competitive” if nothing else this season.

The Roadrunners started the season in Austin playing the nationally ranked Longhorns on Jan. 12

After losing 7-0 to the fourth ranked Texas Longhorns on Thursday, coach Da Silva, instead of being upset with the loss, left Austin more encouraged with his young team’s competitive intensity against one of the nation’s best tennis teams.

“There’s never a good loss, but after what I saw in that match, my expectations went higher than what they were before,” said Da Silva after his team’s loss in Austin. “The guys looked really good. I’m not saying we should’ve won, but we missed some key executions, but I was really happy with how well they performed.”

The Longhorns started with a 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles points.

Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott, ranked 38th in doubles, kept UTSA’s Kai Breitback and Patrick Poesinger from scoring in route to a 6-0 victory at number two. At the top of the lineup, UT’s Colin Markes and Leo Telles scored another point for the Longhorns when they defeated the Roadrunner’s Fabian Brand and Igor Cantanhede.

“I was happily surprised by the match. The energy of the guys was great. Some of the guys were a bit nervous because it was the first match of the year,” said Brand. “The funny thing was, we all knew UT was ranked number 4, and some of the newer guys knew they were good but didn’t know how good, so when we said they were 4th, they got really excited with their first match.”

In singles, the Texas Longhorns shutout the UTSA Roadrunners and nearly swept every match except one.

UTSA’s Takeru Watanbe, one of seven freshmen suiting up for the ‘Runners this season, lost 4-0 to UT’s George Goldhoff, 6-3, which clinched the match for UT.

As the Roadrunners begin to prepare for their home opener, Coach Da Silva will remind his team to focus on something they forgot to do during the Longhorn match: celebrate.

“Sometimes when they did something really good, they didn’t pump their fists. That’s the kind of energy we want to have.

When something good happens, celebrate,” said Da Silva.

UTSA returns home on Jan. 25 to host Prairie View A&M in their home opener. The first serve is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the UTSA Tennis Center.

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