The Bruins shouldn’t count out court six.
Crowds gathered at the upper courts Saturday to watch No. 2 UCLA men’s tennis (26-2, 8-0 Pac-12) take down No. 12 USC (17-8, 6-2) and win the Pac-12 finals.
But it was freshman Connor Hance who clinched the title down on the lowest court.
“It feels unbelievable,” Hance said, following the win. “It’s crazy to have experienced that.”
Prior to his arrival at UCLA, the Torrance native took home the singles title at the Ojai Valley Junior Tournament in 2016 and was named an All-American in 2017 – but he never had a team counting on him.
Coach Billy Martin said he always knew Hance was capable of pulling out a big win for the Bruins and recruited him because of this competitive nature.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Martin said. “I have high expectations for him.”
Hance has been in the singles lineup for 24 of the Bruins’ 28 matches this season, playing 18 of those matches on court six.
The only other players that have occupied No. 6 singles more than once this year are sophomore Ben Goldberg and senior Austin Rapp, together recording only one combined loss in six total matches on that court.
In his first career singles win for the Bruins back in January, Hance clinched the match over George Washington. The freshman went on to win five of his next seven matches.
“That’s been the story of our whole year,” said senior Martin Redlicki. “Just having a freshman come in, step up and play really well.”
Hance has compiled a 17-7 overall record throughout the course of the season, going 9-4 on court six and 5-0 when he played on courts four and five.
In his first Pac-12 postseason tournament this past weekend, Hance went unbeaten. But Martin said the greatest test is yet to come.
“We’ve still got our biggest chapter left,” Martin said. “We don’t want to get too full of ourselves leading into our more important goal of the year.”
In Tuesday’s selection show, UCLA was announced as the No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament and will host Idaho in the first round on May 12.
“We know we can do big things,” Hance said. “I’m confident in myself and I’m just going to keep trying to be clutch.”