NORMAN, Okla. -- The No. 13 University of Oklahoma men’s tennis team will celebrate Senior Day Sunday, April 21, as they face in-state rival Oklahoma State in the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Bedlam Series at 1 p.m. at the Headington Family Tennis Pavilion.
“OSU has played some decent matches in the last few weeks; it hasn’t gotten the wins, but it has played well,” OU head coach John Roddick said. “We lost 20 in a row at one stage before I got here. Now we’re five in a row the other way, so it means a lot to keep this streak going as long as we can.”
With Senior Day coming, the three Sooner seniors, Costin Paval, Lawrence Formentera and Ryan Proctor, reflect on their time at OU.
“It’s been four years already and I can’t really believe it’s gone this fast,” Paval said. “If you take each moment in particular, you think it is everlasting; but when you look back, it’s just one second and everything goes by.”
Paval is known by teammates as the leader. Coming to Norman from Bucharest, Romania, Paval immediately made an impact on the middle-ranked team. He racked multiple All-American and Big 12 titles, and helped lead OU to an Elite Eight appearance in 2010 and the Big 12 Championship title in 2012.
“He’s always looking to help people, especially when it can help the team and work for the greater good,” Proctor said. “Costin and I are so different and come from different countries, but we’ve learned to communicate really well and have a close friendship.”
“Costin was the first recruit I ever had and has probably ended up being the best player we’ve had in the program, just from a playing standpoint,” he said. “Having a guy like that helped us elevate the program immediately when I got here.”
Paval is proud of the way he and his teammates have helped elevate the Sooners’ tennis prestige.
“When I came here the team was No. 54 in the rankings and this year we reached the top five in the nation,” he said. “That’s a pretty cool accomplishment. To know that you took a program somewhere from average to one of the best in the country is a pretty good feeling.”
Roddick also noted the impact Formentera had, especially when he clinched the win over Texas in the NCAA Round of 16.
“He probably won one of the biggest matches in OU history when he beat Texas,” Roddick said. “That was a match he wasn’t favored to win.”
Formentera, a California native, looks back at his time as a Sooner fondly.
“OU has meant a lot to me,” he said. “A lot of great opportunities came to me here. It’s a great place to go to school. I met a lot of great people at this university. I enjoyed my time playing tennis here with the team and the coaches.”
Formentera won’t be remembered just for his playing.
“He’s interesting, funny and very unique,” Proctor said. “He always tries to be a little bit different from everybody else. He’s very much himself.”
Proctor will also be remembered for more than his playing.
“You can’t get a nicer person than Ryan Proctor,” Formentera said. “He’s a great teammate, a great person. He’s always helping out, even with all the little things. He’s a great guy to have on any team.”
Proctor has also contributed a lot to the team academically. He came to OU as a National Merit Scholar and was one of seven OU student-athletes recently awarded with the Gerald Lage Award for academics.
“He’s been one of the best students we’ve had on the team,” Roddick said. “And he’s always a guy willing to do anything to help the team.”
Proctor acknowledges the growth he and his fellow seniors have had since coming to OU.
“We’re all three very different in a lot of aspects, but I think we’ve all grown a lot,” he said. “When you’re a freshman looking up at the seniors, you think they’re so mature. I don’t see myself being like that. It’s been really fun coming with those guys, learning from them and trying to be the leaders we looked up to when we were freshmen.”
As the only Oklahoma native of the three seniors, Proctor is especially looking forward to Bedlam on Sunday.
“It’s been a really special match for me because a bunch of guys that I was friends with from my high school team go there,” Proctor said. “It’s been really fun competing against them and keeping that tennis relationship. It’s going to be a really fun match with it being Senior Day. I think we’re going to have a big crowd.”
Proctor and Formentera also recognize the importance of Bedlam and Senior Day.
“A lot of our friends are going to come to this one, especially because it’s Senior Day for three of our guys,” Formentera said. “I think the crowd is going to be pretty special in this match.”
Paval knows the importance of Bedlam, but he also knows it’s important to look at it as just another match.
“My coach in Romania used to say, ‘You don’t need to always know the name of the guy or look at his face. You just play your game,’” Paval said. “It’s pretty much the same thing we’re doing right now. Hopefully we’ll come off on top.”
Formentera is ready to finish the regular season strong.
“Bedlam means a lot,” he said. “We have pretty much dominated the series since we got here, so I’d like to finish off with another win over Oklahoma State.”
Looking forward to Bedlam and the Big 12 Championships that the Sooners will host next week, Roddick acknowledges the seniors’ contribution.
“They all bring something very different,” he said. “It’s been a neat class to watch those three go through it together.”