The Miller Tennis Center has been a tough place for opponents to play this season and the men's tennis team was hoping to continue that trend as it kicked off conference play over the weekend.
Trying to defend a perfect home record so far this year, the Bulls (7-4, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) hooked up with conference foe Toledo (8-11, 0-1 MAC) on Saturday. Buffalo used the home-court advantage to rally and pull off a 4-3 comeback win over the Rockets.
Needing to capture victories in two of the final three matches to win the match, the Bulls depended on their fourth and sixth slot players to edge the Rockets.
Sophomore Alex Kalinin fell into a deep hole early, dropping the first set of his match against Toledo's Gursher Harika, 6-2. All hope seemed lost as Kalinin trailed 2-0 early in the second set, but the sophomore came to life and rallied to win the next six games, taking the second set, 6-2, to tie the match at one set apiece.
Kalinin's surge continued in the next set as he gained an early advantage en route to a 6-2, third set victory to notch a point for the Bulls.
"Alex Kalinin really battled out there," head coach Lee Nickell said.
The pressure then shifted to freshman George Tibel, who needed to win if the Bulls were to beat Toledo.
Tibil dropped the first set, 4-6, to Rockets sophomore Leo Sarria. The freshman then cruised in the second set, winning 6-2. In the third and final set, Tibil fell behind a break at 4-2. The Bulls' hopes of preserving their perfect home record looked slim.
But Tibil was able to break Sarria, and in the process took a 5-4 lead. Both players held serve to force the tiebreaker and Tibil defeated Sarria, 7-4, to claim a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory.
"It was a great win for George Tibel after being down a break in the third set," Nickell said.
The Rockets jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after winning two-out-of-three doubles matches.
In the first singles match, the Bulls captured a win when sophomore Wojciech Starakiewicz came back from being down a break in the second set to defeat the Rockets' Sven Burus 6-1, 6-4.
Toledo then broke the tie score in the second singles match. Junior Aleksandar Elezovic handled Bulls junior Marcelo Mazzetto 6-3, 6-2.
In third singles, Rockets junior Nutthavit Likitkumchom needed three sets to defeat senior Kirill Kolomyts, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Freshmen Vusa Hove won in straight sets in the fifth slot match. Hove defeated Toledo freshman Bryant Dudzik, 6-2, 6-3.
The Bulls needed strong performances from many of their players to beat Toledo, and Nickell was pleased with the team's overall effort in the win.
"It was a very strong fighting performance for our guys," Nickell said. "We showed great resiliency to come back. Our energy seemed to rise as the game went on and that's what put us over a good Toledo team."