After delays and cancellations due to the tragic Sept. 11 tragedies, the UB men's tennis team finally opened its 2001-2002 season at the Nike Fall Classic, held Sept. 23-25 at St. Bonaventure University.
Out of the six competing teams, UB took home four first-place wins, among them first doubles and first singles. The team of Randy Rocchio and Nick Ziezula, two Buffalo freshman standouts, took first doubles as they defeated St, Bonaventure's Vili Nurmi and Nikhil Murali in an 8-5 battle.
In the first singles match-up, Fery Kasiman rebounded from dropping the first set decisively 1-6, to take the next two 6-4, 6-3 and win the match against Finnish product Vili Nurmi in dramatic fashion.
"Vili is one of the most talented players, a phenomenal player," said UB Coach Russ Crispell. "He led Bonnie to the Atlantic 10 title last year. Fery was down 6-1,4-1 ... so many players would have just given up at that point. He left Fery a little opening, and he took it and played a phenomenal second half of the match," said Crispell.
The fourth singles contest was another three-set epic. UB senior captain Justin Brtko defeated Nikhil Murali 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 in a see-saw affair. Brtko has for years demonstrated the intestinal fortitude to look an adversary right in the eye and then smack him in the face.
"I was rolling, playing well, then I kind of let up in the second. He caught fire a little bit, but I kept my cool and took him in the third," said Brtko.
Buffalo's fourth title was in the third doubles competition. Brtko captured his second championship of the weekend with freshman Rohan Raikar, shelling Adam Price and Greg Osier by a score of 8-1.
Although there was no official team scoring in the invitational, UB's four titles put them head and shoulders over the rest of the competition. Crispell was delighted with his team's performance. "Overall, it was outstanding. Clearly, we were the strongest team in the field. My guys came to play," he said.
The men's tennis program resumes action the weekend of Oct. 5-7, when they will match up against Rider, St. Peter's and Temple universities.
"All the freshmen played really well. Randy and Nick were real strong. Rohan and I played sweet, too," said Brtko.
The team's talented freshmen will make this a season to watch.