The end of an era for UB men's tennis as season comes to a close
Bulls say goodbye to four seniors after MAC Semifinals loss
Senior Sergio Arevalillo still remembers his greatest moment on a tennis court.
Trailing 5-1 in the third set of his singles match against Binghamton in last year’s Mid-American Conference Championship game, Arevalillo pulled off a comeback that led the Bulls to their first-ever conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance.
Yet after the Bulls’ (11-8, 4-3 MAC) 4-2 loss to Ball State in the MAC Championships Semifinals Friday, Arevalillo, along with fellow senior teammates Pablo Alvarez, Amar Hromic, and Akhil Mehta, all say goodbye to the program. The Bulls took the doubles point Friday, but couldn’t come through in singles play to advance to the championship game.
“I guess it feels a bit worse, just being that close,” Arevalillo said. “You cannot help but think what would have happened if, just one point here, one point there, we could have had it, and then we’d be playing [Saturday] for the championship.”
Despite being the defending conference champions, Buffalo did not come into the season with high expectations. They had lost their two best players, Damien David and Sebastian Ionescu, to graduation. Nickell says he was proud of where his team wound up this year.
“With the expectations of everybody else coming into this year, you wouldn’t expect that we were supposed to win a match,” Nickell said. “To make the MAC Tournament, to beat a couple of Ivy League teams, is a successful season even though we still felt like we could win a championship. That being said we can hold our heads high with the way that this season finished up.”
Buffalo’s four seniors, who combined for 71 of the Bulls 82 singles wins on the season, carried the load. Two seniors – Alvarez and Arevalillo – notched their 100th career victories in their UB careers.
Nickell said all he could do after Friday’s loss was thank his graduating seniors for everything.
“I just thanked them,” Nickell said. “Thanked them for everything they did, thanked them for the way they represented our program, and for all the heart and effort they put in to help this program.”
Arevalillo, who had a breakout season and went 24-9 in singles matches and became the No. 1 singles player on the team, was emotional when reflecting on his career and how close the team was to defending its title.
“I wanted to thank my coaches for such a great opportunity they gave me to come here,” Arevalillo said. “Because I really had the best time of my life when I was here. I told [my coaches] I hope the players they recruited have the same heart we have and passion for the team, because if they do I know they’re going to do great.”
With the expectations heading into the season, Nickell said that the team should hold their heads up. The Bulls were able to defeat Ivy League’s Yale and Brown in the regular season.
Both Nickell and Arevalillo are hopeful about the future of the program despite the loss of four seniors.
“Nobody’s bad at our level it’s just a matter of who wants it more,” Arevalillo said. “And that’s really what’s being developed in our program, just a lot of fighting your heart out, and I’m sure that’s why we achieved so many goals.”
Michael Akelson is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com.