Men’s Tennis Upsets Chicago In Thrilling 5-4 NCAA Regional Final Win

Posted on May 14th, 2017 by


ST. PETER, Minn. – The No. 21-ranked Gustavus men’s tennis team defeated the No. 6-ranked University of Chicago 5-4 on Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Regional Championship match at Swanson Tennis Center.

After being bounced by Chicago in the regional championship the last two seasons, the Gusties stepped up and upset the Maroons in the final singles set to advance into the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

“Nothing comes easily, that was a match that could have gone either way,” said Head Coach Tommy Valentini, who is reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships for the first time in his eighth season at the helm. “It was one of those games that you’re just grateful you could be a part of and the people in your program get to experience and enjoy it.”

Gustavus gained a 2-1 lead with doubles wins in the No. 2 and 3 positions prior to the singles matches going back and forth, leaving the deciding match up to the No. 2 singles spot with the score tied 4-4.

Zach Ekstein celebrates his match-winning point. (Photo courtesy of CJ Siewert, Gustavus Sports Information)

Chicago’s Erik Kerrgian went up on Zach Ekstein (Jr., Eagan, Minn.) in the first set, but Ekstein battled back to defeat Kerrigan 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 and clinch the 5-4 victory for the Black and Gold.

“I knew I had to just make him play balls, he was cranking his forehand left and right on any short ball I gave him,” Ekstein spoke of his singles match. “We knew we could win the whole time. When we played before, we got swept in doubles. We knew that wasn’t going to happen this time. As long as we got up 2-1, as it happened we knew we could do it in singles and that proved to be true today.”

“They trusted so beautifully,” Valentini said about the Gusties’ play. “We knew if we were going to be able to win, it was going to be long and intense. They trusted and competed for each other and it was an amazing match to be a part of. When it comes down to the end and you have the guy that you would choose to be in that situation out there, you don’t come through all the time in those spots, but Zach has been brilliant in those situations for us.”

Gustavus 5, Chicago 4 (Box)


  1. Mohanad Alhouni (Jr., Tripoli, Libya) (GAC) def. Chua, Nicolas (UC) 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
  2. Zach Ekstein (Jr., Eagan, Minn.) (GAC) def. Kerrigan, Erik (UC) 4-6, 7-6, 7-5
  3. Patrick Whaling (So., Mankiob Sabot, Va.) (GAC) def. Pei, Charlie (UC) 6-4, 6-2
  4. Leung, Peter (UC) def. Tommy Entwistle (Jr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) 6-4, 7-5
  5. Tsai, Luke (UC) def. Chase Johnson (So., Golden Valley, Minn.) (GAC) 6-1, 6-0
  6. Kumar, Ninan (UC) def. Yassine Derbani (Fy., Casablanca, Morocco) (GAC) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3


  1. Kerrigan, Erik/Kumar, Ninan (UC) def. Alhouni/Whaling (GAC) 8-6
  2. Entwistle/Johnson (GAC) def. Raclin, Tyler/Hawkins, Max (UC) 8-6
  3. David Hagberg (Sr., Eden Prairie, Minn.)/Derbani (GAC) def. Chua, Nicolas/Pei, Charlie (UC) 8-4

The Gusties will face Middlebury College next Monday, May 22 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“You try every year to get to this point and embrace the challenge,” Valentini commented. “You want to stay in the moment and not look to far ahead, but it is a huge step and honor for our program. We are excited for what comes next but I think mostly having the guys handle this moment well is something that I am really proud of.”



  1. maxine leonescu says:

    Zach, You are amazing. Congratulations on your win. We are so proud of you. When are the finals? We wish you all the success in the world. Much love, Aunt Maxine and Uncle Jerry

  2. Joel Beck says:

    Congratulations coach Valentini and boys! Go represent!
    Joel and Aura Beck