Tennis teams fall short in MAC Tournament

Men fall in championship match for third time in five years, women swept in semifinals

By TOM DINKI and CHRISTIAN BRUNO
On April 27, 2014

  • Sophomore Akhil Mehta and the men’s tennis team upset top-seeded Northern Illinois in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament this weekend but fell in the MAC Championship match for the third time in five years. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum

Both the men's and women's tennis team earned a victory in their respective Mid-American Conference Tournaments this weekend, but neither will be returning to Buffalo with a championship.

The men's tennis team (12-8, 2-4 MAC) lost in the MAC Championship match for the third time in the past five years, falling to No. 2 seed Ball State (14-11, 4-2 MAC) 4-3 in Muncie, Ind. Saturday. The women's team (15-6, 6-4 MAC) fell to top-seeded Miami Ohio (17-6, 9-1 MAC) Saturday after defeating Toledo (14-7, 5-4 MAC) in the quarterfinals Friday.

The men's team made its third championship match appearance under head coach Lee Nickell after upsetting top-seeded Northern Illinois (18-6, 4-1 MAC) Friday morning. The Huskies took a commanding 2-0 lead after winning the doubles point and sophomore Pablo Alvarez fell at No. 3 singles. Then, Buffalo began to rally.

Junior Sebastian Ionescu, sophomore Akhil Mehta and freshman Jonathan Hannestad claimed victories at singles to give the Bulls a 3-2 advantage. Sophomore Sergio Arevalillo clinched the upset victory with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 decision over the Huskies' Jovan Zeljkovic.

In the MAC Championship match, Buffalo was again on the verge of losing the doubles point after a loss at No. 2 doubles. But the duo of Alvarez and Ionescu, along with the tandem of junior Damien David and Mehta both claimed victories to give the Bulls the doubles point.

With the overall match tied 3-3, the championship came down to Alvarez at No. 3 singles. Alzarez fell in a tiebreaker 9-7, giving the Bulls their third championship match loss in five years.

Despite their shortcomings in the final game, the Bulls had a historic season. Buffalo received its first-ever top 75 ranking by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association earlier this season when it upset No. 56 Cornell (13-8, 4-3 Ivy League). At the time, Cornell was ranked No. 53.

"Everyone associated with the team should be proud of this year," Nickell said. "We've had so many highs - we were ranked for the first time in school history ... we beat the best team in the conference [Northern Illinois] here."

In Oxford, Ohio, the women's team overcame losing the doubles point against the Rockets in the quarterfinals by dominating singles play.

"We had a good conversation in between singles and doubles and said, 'There are things we got to clean and things we have to do better' and to the girls' credits, they went out and did it. They just took care of business in singles," said head coach Kristen Maines.

Freshman Margarita Kotok and seniors Marta Stoyanova and Miranda Podlas won their singles matches in two sets to give Buffalo a 3-1 advantage. Senior Anamaria Candanoza clinched the victory for the Bulls with a 6-4, 6-4 victory at No. 5 singles, propelling Buffalo into the MAC semifinals for the first time since 2010.

The Bulls could not carry their momentum into their match against Miami Ohio Saturday, however, as they were swept 4-0. Buffalo lost the doubles point again, but there would be no comeback this time. The RedHawks clinched the match with a victory at third singles when junior Laura Fernandez fell 6-2, 6-2 to Christiana Raymond.

"Miami [Ohio] came out really strong," Maines said. "They played better than we did. That's what it boiled down to. They competed well, they battled. Miami was the stronger team outside Saturday so unfortunately they deserved that win."

The women finished the season with the highest win total since the 2006-07 season. Candanoza was named to the All-MAC Tournament Team. The semifinal loss marked the final match of Candanoza, Podlas, Stoyanova and Tanvi Shah's UB careers.

"We only have three returners so they're going to critical," Maines said. "We're going to have a whole new team this year which is exciting and a little scary at the same time. It's a lot of recruiting and you put a lot of time and effort into the right players but you never really know how the team is going to jell until you get in here."

The men will return all of the starters from this season, however, and are poised for another tournament run next year.

 

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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