Had the COVID-19 pandemic not led to the cancellation of most sporting events worldwide, Father Duenas Memorial School graduate Camden Camacho and the George Fox University Bruins men’s tennis team may have won another Northwest Conference title in 2020. But hindsight and history being what it is, the world will never know.
But in late April, in Newberg, Oregon, Camacho helped lead the Bruins to their third straight conference championship.
At the start of the team competition, things, to say the least, weren’t going well for the Bruins. They were losing all three doubles matches, which seemed to set the stage for a bridesmaid finish. But as the matches wore on, the Bruins hunkered down and flipped the script on the visiting Pacific University Boxers. Camacho, who played No. 1 doubles with Vahag Pashayan, turned a love-four deficit into a spirit-breaking 8-7 (3) win over Mason Tran and Quentin Gonzalez. In the other two matches, on adjacent courts, the Bruins also won via tie breaks.
During the Camacho and Pashayan vs. Tran and Gonzalez match, nothing was going well in the beginning. After two breaks of serves and a pair of dismal return games, the Bruins found themselves in a huge hole. But amid the echo-filled indoor facility, which was eerily quiet albeit the unmistakable sounds of indoor tennis and the other team’s high-fives, all three Bruins teams started winning points, then games, then matches.
“We looked over and saw the other courts down in the set so we tried picking them up, which picked us up in return,” Camacho said. “I believe that my partner and I found our rhythm and we’re getting pumped up because we didn’t want to lose, at all costs.”
After sweeping the doubles, the Bruins parlayed the momentum into singles success. Although Pashayan lost his No. 1 singles math to Tran, 6-4, 6-0, GFU’s No. 5 Lars Schmassmann and No. 6 Hunter Fujimori won their matches and locked up the title. Schmassmann, the Bruins’ No. 5 singles player, defeated Aidan Rooney 6-1, 6-3. At No. 6 singles, clinching the 5-1 conference win, Fujimori beat Benjamin Dubois, 7-5, 6-2.
“Watching everyone come back and fight hard to win the championship was a great feeling,” Camacho said. “I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me through the years, especially my parents,” added Camacho, who is gearing up for a first-round battle against Greenville University Panthers in the NCAA Division III Tournament May 5, in St. Louis, Missouri. “Regionals is going to be tough but we will try our best to fight and hopefully make it into team nationals.”
With a massive goal and an equally big opponent in front of them in the Panthers, winners of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, Camacho feels he is ready for St. Louis, where 43 other teams, including 33 divisional champs and 11 at large teams will be vying berths to the team championship finals. The team championship finals will be played May 13-16 at the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando, Florida .
Throughout the 2022-2023 season, Camacho and his doubles partner gelled like never before, becoming the second best doubles team in the region.
“No. 2 in the region for doubles is a great accomplishment for my partner and I,” Camacho said. “It’s a testament of how much work we’ve put in throughout the years playing together."
Along with making it far in the NCAA Regionals, Camacho hopes he and Pashayan extend their journey past the team competition.
“My partner and I are hoping to get a bid into the individual doubles tournament because that’ll include the top 16 teams in the nation and we will try to go as deep as possible,” he said.
The Bruins, ranked fifth in Region VIII, are a long shot to make it out of Mound City and into the Sunshine State. But that doesn't deter the senior Camacho, who has taken the reins as co-captain and helped shape the Bruins into a regional powerhouse.
“This season, my roles on the team were to lead them mentally and physically and set an example of how to compete for the young ones,” Camacho said. “The past years, my role was to follow and do my best as a teammate. … I am most proud of our growth in doubles as a team this year, even though we still have a lot more to go. I believe everyone has grown a lot this year.”
Camacho said that he and his partner stepped up to the No. 1 doubles role and are having fun leading the team and playing against great competition.
With a storied collegiate tennis career quickly coming to an end, Camacho is excited for what the future holds, including representing the island in international competition.
“Representing Guam is one of the main reasons why I love tennis,” Camacho said. “I will always rep my island and look forward to playing in future competitions. Up next for Guam is David Cup and Pacific Games, which I plan on representing for both."