UB men’s tennis wins regular season MAC title with undefeated record
UB’s men’s tennis team (12-5, 7-0 Mid-American Conference) capped off a perfect MAC season with a 4-3 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies (13-11, 25 MAC) Sunday afternoon. The Bulls are the first team to go undefeated in MAC play in 18 years.
This has been one of the best for the Bulls season in years. The tennis team locked up the number one seed Friday with their 6-1 win over the Ball State Cardinals (13-11, 2-4 MAC). Sunday's win locked them in as sole winners for the MAC regular season championship.
“I feel like it’s a little bit bigger of an accomplishment than winning the tournament just because it’s over an extended period of time,” said Bulls head coach Lee Nickell. “We’ve gotta get up for separate matches, where in a tournament you can get hot. It’s just kind of surreal right now, I’m just sitting here really proud of the guys and the effort they put through this season.”
Junior Vidit Vaghela sealed the perfect MAC season when he won the match in three sets at second singles. His game was one of the most exciting of the day. Vaghela dropped the first set to Huskie freshman Bor Schweiger Muzar, 6-4. Muzar came out and got the break to start the second set, but Vaghela rallied hard and turned things around.
Vaghela took control and captured the second set 6-3. The Bulls had a 3-2 lead over the Huskies during Vaghela’s third set and needed one of the final two singles matches to clinch the regular season title.
Vaghela dominated the third set, 6-1.
“I lost the first set with just one break and I got broken early in the second, all the momentum was on his side,” Vaghela said. “But I fought back and switched a couple of things… once I started getting points I figured out that if I stayed on I could win it, so that’s what I did and it worked out pretty well.”
The Bulls started the day flat. Each team captured a doubles matchup but the Huskies captured the final doubles matchup and the doubles point to go with it.
The Bulls came back in singles play and took four of the six points. Sophomore Ethan Nittolo turned things around and clinched the first singles point for the Bulls in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. Freshman Hao Sheng Koay cleaned up next and took care of things in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Freshman Vilhelm Fridell was the other Bull to bring a singles point to the team. He dropped his first set 4-6 but answered back with two dominant sets for the victory, 6-2, 6-1.
After Vaghela's clinch of the victory, the team quickly embraced before moving over to the fifth singles court to cheer on Junior Petr Vodak who was playing in a super tiebreaker set. The team looked on from the next court over as they cheered on their teammate and waited to celebrate as a unit. Vodak dropped his point but it was too little too late for the Huskies.
“It feels pretty amazing, in the beginning we lost the doubles point, didn’t look too great, but our team just has a lot of fight,” said senior Tony Miller. “We’re a family, ended up getting the job done and really lost for words right now, pretty unbelievable.”
Miller, the only senior on the team, was honored before the game.
The Bulls entered MAC play with a record of 5-5. All five losses came to Ivy League teams, including 4-3 losses to both Yale and Harvard. Nickell said the team purposely scheduled a tough non-conference to be prepared come conference time.
“We started .500 but our losses were to five teams in the top-50 and two of those teams top-20,” Nickell said. “Two of those matches were 4-3, last match on, so we do that on purpose to get us prepared for what we just faced.”
The Bulls capitalized on the preparation and dominated almost all of their MAC opponents. Four of their MAC victories came by 6-1 margins. The Western Michigan Broncos and the Huskies were the only two teams to come within a point of the Bulls during league play.
Five different Bulls finished with 15 or more singles victories during the season.
Next up for Buffalo will be a trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan for the MAC tournament. Their opponent will be the No. 4 seed that is yet to be determined.
The Bulls have wins over every team in the MAC and are confident in entering the tournament.
“It’s going to be just a fight to prove that we deserve to be 7-0, and we’ll make it 9-0 at the conference tournament,” Vaghela said.