Freshman West a big hit for Salukis

By Gus Bode

Eric West hates losing.

West, a freshman born in Mississauga, Ontario, has won 15 straight matches for the Salukis and is undefeated in conference.

‘I have a never-quit attitude,’ West said. ‘I go out there and fight for every point. My Dad always told me the match is never over until you shake the other guys’ hand.’

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This mentality has led West’s teammates to refer to him simply as ‘a fighter.’

West said his attitude is a big part of why he has been so successful, but in the end it’s still a team effort.

‘As a freshman, you want to do as much as you can for the team,’ West said.

West said his preparation for each match depended on who the Salukis were facing. The freshman said he goes into each match expecting his opponent to be at his best and in return, he wants to deliver the same.

In the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, West and the Salukis take on Creighton.

West defeated Creighton’s No. 2 singles player, Gabe Nagy, in straight sets April 4. It was West’s first win at No. 2 singles, because he usually plays at the No. 3 spot.

‘I just have to figure out my opponent’s weakness and never give up,’ West said. ‘Winning or losing, I can’t give up.’

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Senior Felipe Villasenor, the team’s No. 1 and West’s doubles partner, said he thought the key to West’s success could be his consistency.

‘ ‘Eric doesn’t let the opponents get the easy points. He is just a very complete player,’ Villasenor said.

Villasenor said West’s style of play allows him to return shots that most people would not get.

‘ The senior said his advice to West was to keep playing the way he does – with intensity.

‘The word for Eric is fighter,’ Villasenor said.

Men’s tennis head coach Dann Nelson said West’s fighter mentality and strong play has trickled down to the entire team.

‘It not only gives him confidence, but it gives everyone else on the team confidence,’ Nelson said. ‘Everyone thinks he will win his match so it takes pressure off the other guys.’

Nelson said winning isn’t the only thing West is good at.

Nelson said he attended West’s final high school match. Although West lost, he was humble in defeat.

The SIU men’s coach said he was impressed with West’s humility and maturity.

West finished the spring season 17-3, including a victory over defending champion Drake’s Cesar Bracho. Losing is not something he has had to deal much with.

‘ Even though he has three more years of eligibility remaining, West already has his mind on what his future holds. West, a business major, has aspirations of owning a tennis club, coaching a tennis team or even playing at a professional level.

His coach thinks he has a chance.

‘If he wants to achieve his dreams, he’ll have to play at No. 1 and play well,’ Nelson said. ‘The sky is the limit for Eric.’

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