Story courtesy of Nick Snow – Intercollegiate Tennis Association
ST. PETER, Minn. (Feb. 23) - The matchup for the 2013 ITA Division III National Men’s Team Indoor Championship crown is set, as top seed Emory will take on No. 2 seed Kenyon Sunday morning at 9 am CT on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College. The two-time defending champion Eagles will be seeking their sixth title in program history, while the Lords are looking to break through for their first title ever.
No. 1 seed Emory found itself locked in a tight contest right from the start, as the Trinity Tigers came out strong in doubles action. The Eagles appeared to have court two in their control, as Alex Ruderman and Eric Halpern raced out to a 4-1 lead. However, Trinity’s Nicolas Moreno and Aaron Skinner dug in from there, not only making a comeback, but rattling off the final seven games for an 8-4 victory. Courts one and three would both end in 8-6 decisions, with each team claiming one. Elliot Kahler and Ian Wagner won at the top spot for the Emory, while Connor Dunn and Greg Haugen secured the third position for the Tigers.
Trailing 2-1 going into singles, the Eagles were hoping to get the momentum back on their side with a quick victory from one of their top three players. Ian Wagner delivered for his team, defeating Erick DelaFuente 6-3, 6-3 at the third spot.
“(Ian) Wagner is our anchor at three singles,” stated Emory head coach John Browning. “He really helped take the pressure off of us by getting that point.”
However, it was Trinity who would take the opening sets on courts one and two, putting the Tigers in good position for the upset. The Eagles top two players, Halpern and Ruderman, were able to rally to force decisive sets in their matches. At the same time, Kahler took the court at the fourth position and sprinted out to a quick lead against Moreno, winning the opening set 6-1.
“That’s the nature of this tournament,” explained Browning. “There are going to be several momentum swings, but you can’t get down and let one game turn into something catastrophic.”
Halpern and Skinner were on serve early in their third set, but it was Halpern who surged ahead first with a break for a 3-2 lead. Skinner would break back in the next game, moving Halpern around the court and forcing him to send a forehand long on break point. With Skinner trying to even up the score at 4-4, Halpern broke at love for the 5-3 advantage and served out the big victory.
Moments later, Ruderman completed an improbable comeback from 5-2 down in the third, taking out Haugen 7-5 in the final set. Kahler would come through with the clinching victory for Emory, securing the break at 4-4 and closing out the match emphatically on serve.
“Tonight we took things point by point and didn’t get rattled,” stated Browning. “(Eric) Halpern was amazing tonight. He was up 6-4 in the first set tiebreak, but (Aaron) Skinner is a great player and he played well to come away with the first set. Halpern just showed his resolve tonight to win that match. (Alex) Ruderman is certainly not playing his best tennis, but he is a fighter. He was able to regain his focus down 5-2 in the third to take things point by point to get back in his match.”
Second seed Kenyon found itself receiving an equally tough test from No. 6 seed Cal Lutheran. The Kingsmen played outstanding doubles in upsetting Johns Hopkins on day one, and they came up with the same quality against the Lords. Nick Ballou and Ray Worley won at the top spot 8-4, while Connor Treacy and Alex Nichols breezed to an 8-1 victory on court two. Wade Heerboth and Kevin Ye salvaged one point for Kenyon by winning at the third position 8-5.
“I thought they were lights out at one and two doubles,” stated Kenyon head coach Scott Thielke. “We played them last year and got down 2-1 after doubles as well. That match came down to the last two on just like today. I told them that we just had to get wins where we didn’t last year.”
That’s exactly what the Lords did, but not before Ballou gave Cal Lutheran another point, defeating Burgin 6-1, 6-4. That would be the final point of the night for the Kingsmen, as several Kenyon players came through in tight third sets.
The Lords recorded their first point in singles action thanks to Tim Rosensteel, who picked up a 6-1, 7-6(4) win at the fifth spot. It appeared Heerboth would be next off court for Kenyon, as he was up a set and a break against Alex Nichols, but that point wouldn’t come so easily. Nichols would rally to win the final four games of the second set to force a decisive third. That set was a back and forth affair the entire way, with Heerboth earning a break after a lengthy game at 5-5 and serving it out in the next game.
“Wade got a little nervous in the second set when he was serving for it at 5-4 and ended up losing that set 7-5,” explained Thielke. “For him to come back and win the final set 7-5 shows how tough of a player he is. He has been really solid for us for two years now. We really felt good about our singles lineup tonight, but we knew Paul (Burgin) would have a tough time at one. Ballou is a great player, and he is definitely playing better than a year ago. We did a great job of winning three three-set matches tonight.”
Heerboth evened the overall score at 3-3, and the next completed match also went the way of the Lords, as Michael Razumovsky rebounded from dropping the opening set to Worley to in the match on court two 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. That left Kenyon one point shy of clinching a spot in the finals, which was produced by the final three-set win of the night. C.J Williams and Treacy split the first two sets by the score of 6-4, but it was Williams who got the early break in the third and made it hold up, taking the final set 6-3.
“We really felt good about our singles lineup tonight, but we knew Paul (Burgin) would have a tough time at one,” said Thielke. “(Nick) Ballou is a great player, and he is definitely playing better than a year ago. We also did a great job of winning three three-set matches.”
Consolation play also wrapped up on Saturday. In the morning session, No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins defeated No. 7 seed North Carolina Wesleyan 6-3, while host institution Gustavus Adolphus upset No. 4 seed UC Santa Cruz 5-4. Hopkins collected another win in the nightcap, getting by the Golden Gusties 5-4, while the Banana Slugs rebounded to take out North Carolina Wesleyan 5-4. Click here for the updated draw.
For complete coverage of the 2013 ITA Division III National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, for updates and news from the weekend’s events. Use the hashtag #D3Indoors for all tweets in regards to the event, or search the term “D3Indoors” to find others who are tweeting from across the nation about this year’s Championship, Feb. 22-24.