Men’s Tennis Drops Heartbreaker 5-4 To Defending National Champ Emory

Posted on February 24th, 2018 by

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ST. PETER, Minn. – Reminiscent of last spring’s NCAA region championship upset over Chicago, the Gustavus men’s tennis team had the defending national champion, Emory University, on the ropes all the way to the last singles pairing Friday night in the opening round of the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships. But this time, the Gusties dropped a heartbreaker 5-4 to the No. 1 ranked team in the country, moving into the consolation bracket.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how the team competed and lived out the things that are important to us,” Head Coach Tommy Valentini said. “The match was played at a very high level, especially considering it being late February. Our guys trusted in each other and trusted in our approach beautifully. Obviously, it’s a tough result coming down the stretch, but it was a great match and a special one to be a part of. Hopefully we can use it to build more momentum and trust, and take away the good from it. There were so many occasions where it looked like Emory might run away with it, but our guys believed and competed, and did a good job of sticking together.”

Emory started the match with a quick 2-0 lead with 8-2 and 8-3 wins at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles, respectively, before the No. 1 doubles team of Mohanad Alhouni (Sr., Tripoli, Libya) and Patrick Whaling (Jr., Manakin Sabot, Va.) defeated Emory’s top tandem 8-6.

Five out of six Gustie singles players dropped their first set, but that’s when the momentum shifted in favor of the home squad. The Eagles claimed a quick two-set win at No. 5 singles before Zach Ekstein (Sr., Eagan, Minn.) and Whaling rallied to win in three sets at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, respectively, enticing roars from the large home crowd in attendance at the Swanson Tennis Center. Alhouni shortly followed with a 6-4, 7-5 win at the top spot to give the Gusties a 4-3 lead. Both Chase Johnson (Jr., Golden Valley, Minn.) and Tommy Entwistle (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) forced third sets at the Nos. 4 and 6 spots, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Eagles won the final two singles for the one-point decision.

“The atmosphere was about as fun as you could ask for when playing a home match,” Valentini said. “It’s what this tournament is all about.”

Gustavus falls into the consolation bracket where it will take on Carnegie Mellon University at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Tartans lost to Chicago 6-3.

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