ASU men's tennis continues struggling to pick up wins, losing all but one of its Pac-12 matches since beginning conference play. With an 8-13 record, the team ranks 62nd of 75 teams in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
Despite the lack of success, the Sun Devils' young core — of which underclassmen comprise more than half the team — has produced strong individual results and gained important experience.
"I feel like we have seen a ton of growth in the team," head coach Matt Hill said. "Our chemistry as a team is getting way better, we still have a ton of potential and growth here as a team going into the future."
The young core is led by freshman Murphy Cassone, who ranks 20th in the nation in singles play with a 9-5 record. He currently holds a six-match winning streak. Cassone has also defeated the No. 1, 2, and 9 players in the country this season.
"For what he (Cassone) is doing at this level as a true freshman is really rare," Hill said. "It's going to be really fun to see him progress in the next few seasons. We're still just getting started with him, so there is a lot to still work on."
Sophomore captain Max McKennon serves as one half of the 35th best doubles team in the country. McKennon's partner, senior Fabien Salle, is returning next year as well and is No. 125 in the ITA singles ranking.
"As a doubles team, we are hoping to do big things still," McKennon said. "We want to make our marks as Sun Devils, set the tone for what it means to play for Arizona State."
But some underclassmen have endured growing pains.
Freshman Nicola Cigna has had an up-and-down year, going 3-5 in just 11 singles matches this season due to injuries. Cigna has impressed in doubles, going 5-1 in eight matches while playing with four different doubles partners.
Sophomore Jacob Bullard has had a back-and-forth season similar to Cigna, going 6-7 in singles but 7-4 in doubles.
"It's been all about our day-to-day training," Bullard said. "We obviously have a ton of good players that can play at a very high level. If we keep growing as a group every day, the results will come eventually."
And there is more young talent yet to even take the court. Redshirt freshman Filipe Costa will make his debut for the Sun Devils next year after recovering from a knee injury that kept him off the court this season. Costa was ranked in the top-100 Tennis Recruiting Network Tennis rating percentage index for the 2020 recruiting class.
"Costa has incredible upside," Hill said. "He is a great ball-striker and a very hard worker and we can’t wait to see what he does next year."
ASU also landed former 2020 No. 2 recruit Cash Hanzlik to further bolster the roster next season.
"It is very difficult to recruit the top Americans in the country because everyone wants them," Hill said. "To get the players we've had in the last couple of years including Hanzlik, it speaks volumes on what they see is being built here."
Cassone said the team can reach its goal of winning an NCAA title with not only the people the team has but who will join the team in the future.
"If we keep doing the right things, eventually things will click," Cassone said. "With more consistent practices and the recruits coming in next year, I think we will be very good."
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.