Elkhorn, Wis. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s tennis team advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a 5-3 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday afternoon at the Four Lakes Athletic Club. The Warhawks took two of three points in doubles, yet Gustavus rebounded with the fourth points needed to earn a decision in singles. The Gusties improve to 22-9 overall, while UW-Whitewater finishes its season 19-11. The match was moved indoors and away from the UW-Whitewater campus because ofinclement weather
Amrik Donkena (Sr., Rochester, Minn.) and Mya Smith-Dennis (Jr., Savage, Minn.) got Gustavus going with a win at No. 1 doubles to start the afternoon. The pair clicked early and carried the momentum to an 8-1 win over Mitch Osborne and Ben Shklyar.
UW-Whitewater bounced back with a win at No. 2 doubles to tie the match at 1-1. Warhawks Andrew Bayliss and Andy McGlashen jumped out to a 6-1 lead then held on for an 8-2 victory over Grant Leisner (Jr., Andover, Minn.) and Tyler Johnson (Sr., West Bend, Wis.).
The final point of doubles went to UW-Whitewater, as Gustavus found itself trailing 2-1 for the first time since April 13 against Augustana (S.D.). Jake Humphreys and Byron Balkin defeated Brad Entwistle (So., Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Motasem Al-Houni (Tripoli, Libya) 8-5 to send the match into the singles competition.
“Today was absolutely a thrilling match. Whitewater played extremely well from start to finish and showed a lot of skill and will. They played excellent doubles, and they are a fantastic team and group of competitors,” said head coach Tommy Valentini of the doubles play. “We are extremely fortunate to come away with a win today and to advance to the next round. Without a doubt, this match could have gone either way.”
In singles play, Joey MacGibbon (Jr., Apple Valley, Minn.) tied the match at 2-2 with a win at the No. 5 position. MacGibbon cruised to a straight set win by the score of 6-4, 6-1 over Andrew Bayliss to give the Gusties a much-needed lift.
Following MacGibbon’s win, Ben Shklyar earned what would prove to be the Warhawks’ only point in singles with a 7-6 (9-0), 6-4 win over Amrik Donkena at No. 1. With Shkylar’s win, UW-Whitewater took the lead back with the score 3-2.
From there, the Gusties came roaring back to take three straight matches and achieve the five points needed to advance to the next round. Despite losing the first set 7-5, Gustavus’s No. 3 competitor, Grant Leisner, rallied by winning the last two sets by the scores of 6-3 and 6-1. Leisner’s win over Andy McGlashen brought the match back to even at 3-3.
Brad Entwistle gave the lead back to Gustavus with a victory at No. 6. Entwistle also lost the first set but rebounded with a 6-3 win in the second and a 6-3 win in the third to put the Gusties on top 4-3.
Mya Smith-Dennis completed the run with a three-set win over Byron Balkin at the No. 2 position. Smith-Dennis won the first set 6-3, lost the second 6-4, and then took the match with a 7-5 win in the final frame. Trailing 4-5 in the third set, Smith-Dennis came roaring back to take three straight games and seal the win for the Black at Gold with the score of 5-3.
“Coming out of the 1-2 hole in doubles, our guys showed incredible composure,” mentioned Valentini of his team’s persistence. “They maintained it throughout a number of momentum swings and third sets in the singles. Joey MacGibbon got us to level early in the singles and gave our team a huge boost. From there every single match was a battle.”
“We trusted each other and pulled each other through,” he continued. “With their backs against the wall on countless occasions our guys continued to trust and believe. I’m very proud of their effort, poise, and guts. We’re going to cherish this moment and do our best to prepare for a match against an excellent Trinity team tomorrow.”
With the victory, Gustavus advances to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. The Gusties will now take on Trinity University at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday at Wangerin Courts with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.