Story courtesy of Nick Snow – ITA
ST. PETER, Minn. (Feb. 22) - The first day of the 2013 ITA Division III National Men’s Team Indoor Championship wrapped up late Friday night, producing four teams remaining in the hunt for the title. The top two seeds, Emory and Kenyon, breezed to 8-1 victories, while No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins and No. 4 seed UC Santa Cruz ended up on the wrong side of 5-4 decisions. Click here for the updated draw.
The morning session featured second-seeded Kenyon up against North Carolina Wesleyan, along with third seed Johns Hopkins and Cal Lutheran. The Lords looked strong in doubles to open their match against the Battling Bishops, threatening to take a commanding 3-0 lead into singles action. Kenyon claimed points at the second and third positions before North Carolina Wesleyan was able to salvage the match at the first spot with a 9-7 victory.
The Lords claimed the first singles match off court, as Wade Heerboth picked up a 6-0, 6-4 win at the third position. Heerboth’s precise baseline game was nearly flawless in the opening set, but he needed to overcome more erratic play in the second to hold on. Kevin Ye was next to deliver for Kenyon, bouncing back from an opening set loss to defeat Marcus Pola 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. That set the stage for fourth-ranked Paul Burgin at the top singles spot. Burgin needed a victory to become the Lords’ all-time leader in career singles wins, but to do so he would need to take down second-ranked Robert Kjellberg. In a match that was much closer than the score indicated, Burgin triumphed 6-4, 6-3.
“I thought we were solid in doubles today,” stated Kenyon head coach Scott Thielke. “Five of the six guys in our doubles lineup were on this team that played in the NCAA Finals last year, so they are used to that kind of pressure. We were up breaks on all three courts early, but gave them right back in almost every situation. We need to hold on to those breaks. In singles, Paul (Burgin) and Robert (Kjellberg) have played three times. Each had won once, 7-5 in the third. For Paul to win in straight sets is impressive.”
Kenyon College 8 def. North Carolina Wesleyan | Box Score
Solid doubles helped No. 6 seed Cal Lutheran build a 3-0 lead against Johns Hopkins. Nick Ballou and Ray Worley set the tone early for the Kingsmen at the first position, taking the first four games against the fourth-ranked duo of Tanner Brown and Erik Lim. Ballou and Worley ended up with an 8-2 victory, while Cal Lutheran also won 8-4 on court two and 8-6 on court three.
Ballou came through in singles play as well, producing a comprehensive performance that resulted in a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of fifth-ranked Andy Hersh. Trailing 4-0 in the overall score, the Blue Jays were not content on going away without a fight, claiming the next three completed singles matches to trim their deficit to 4-3. Johns Hopkins momentum would come to a halt thanks to the Kingsmen’s Connor Treacy, who put his team through to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win at the fourth spot.
“We have really focused on doubles in practice,” explained Cal Lutheran head coach Mike Gennette. “Luckily, it worked out today for us. It was definitely an exciting match, and things got tight at the end. We are still in early season form, and I am looking forward to seeing our players lift their games tomorrow.”
Cal Lutheran University 5 def. Johns Hopkins University 4 | Box Score
In the night matches, Emory was up against host Gustavus Adolphus, while UC Santa Cruz faced Trinity. The home team came out strong in doubles against the Eagles, running away with the match at the second spot and gaining control early on court three as well. However, Emory showed why it is the defending champion at this event, clawing back at the third position to take the match 8-5. The Eagles also pulled out a close 8-6 decision on court one, giving them a 2-1 lead overall.
Emory was dominant at the end of sets in singles, as 10 of the 12 sets were decided by a score of 6-3 or closer; however, the Eagles claimed all six matches in straight sets. The top of the Emory lineup came through for the insurmountable 5-1 lead, as Alex Ruderman defeated Amrik Donkena 6-4, 6-4 on a Donkena double fault for the clinching point.
“The doubles is almost always close,” said Emory head coach John Browning. “It usually comes down to just a few key points. Gustavus is a tough doubles team, especially at home. We are a young team that is still looking for its identity. We have three guys back from last year’s NCAA Championship team, and we have confidence in them. (Eric) Halpern, (Alex) Ruderman, and (Ian) Wagner came through for us tonight.”
Emory University 8 def. Gustavus Adolphus College 1 | Box Score
In the other night match, the Trinity Tigers took two of three doubles points for an early 2-1 lead over UC Santa Cruz, highlighted by an 8-0 victory at the first position. Jordan Mayer and top-ranked Aaron Skinner delivered straight sets wins in singles play, giving the Tigers what seemed to be a safe lead against the Banana Slugs. UC Santa Cruz would fight back to make the score 4-3, but still needed to take the final two matches on court.
At the sixth position, Charlie Curtis looked poised to close it out for the Tigers, winning the first set 6-1. He was locked in a tight second set with Max Littlejohn, but Curtis was able to keep the lead in the second set up to 5-4, where Littlejohn had to fight off numerous match points to hold for 5-5. The set eventually went into a tiebreak, where Littlejohn emerged victorious seven points to five. On court four, Trinity’s Nicolas Moreno and UC Santa Cruz’s Sam Rodgers had split tiebreak sets and were early in the third when Littlejohn forced a decisive set. Rodgers took full control in the opening stages of the set, winning it 6-2 to even the overall score at 4-4. The focus shifted back to the sixth position, where Curtis was once again out in front. This time he held on to the lead he built, winning the final set 6-3 to propel his team into the semifinals.
“UC Santa Cruz has had our number for year,” explained Trinity head coach Russell McMindes. “This was a great win, an exciting win. At one point both of our guys at four and six were three points away from clinching, but those leads slipped away. (Charlie) Curtis is only a sophomore, but he has been clutch for us, which is why he is in the lineup. It was fitting for him to close it out. He showed tremendous heart tonight. This was a total team victory because not one guy ever quit.”
Trinity University 5 def. UC-Santa Cruz 4 | Box Score