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Friday, June 21, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Bulls Pulverize Purple Eagles

The "Big Four" rivalry between the four Western New York colleges—UB, Niagara, Canisius, and St. Bonaventure—has always provided great athletic competition. The men's tennis team and Niagara continued that tradition on Thursday afternoon.

Buffalo (9-7, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) took it to an overmatched Niagara (3-14, 3-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) squad and beat it 6-1. The Bulls improved to 97-3-1 in the all-time series with Niagara.

The win marked Buffalo's third in a row, and the team is peaking at just the right time. The Bulls' streak started after they lost four out of their previous five games, which culminated in a 1-6 beatdown at Binghamton (10-13, 3-0 America East).

"Obviously [Niagara is] a cross-town rival," said head coach Lee Nickell. "They have a good coach and they always field a solid team. Getting the win means a lot to us."

The team has been hampered by injuries all year. The squad's leaders—including sophomore George Tibil, senior Marcelo Mazzetto, and senior Mitch Zenaty—have been in and out of the lineup, but Nickell refuses to make excuses. He said that younger, lesser-known players have stepped up when the team has needed them.

Two freshmen continued to impress for the Bulls. Jason Simon and Travis Zappia displayed ability far beyond their years. Simon only surrendered one point to Joseph Zelic, coming away with a 6-0, 6-1 victory in the third-seeded match. Though it seemed impossible to top Simon's performance, Zappia did just that. He blanked Mathieu Lacasse, 6-0, 6-0 in the fifth-seeded match.

The team was once again led by the pairing of junior Wojciech Starakiewicz and sophomore Vusa Hove. The teammates improved to 3-1 as a pair by defeating Matthew Kane and Mathieu Lacasse, 8-4.

Nickell said the combination of Starakiewicz and Hove in the No. 1 slot has worked out exceptionally well, and their success makes the rest of the doubles lineup stronger.

The Bulls dropped the No. 2 doubles match, but junior Alex Kalinin and freshman Jason Shkodnik joined forces to give Buffalo the doubles point by overcoming Brandon Gallegos and Jordan Tedesco-Blair, 8-3.

Buffalo took the top five ranked singles matches. Shkodnik couldn't complete the sweep. He came up just short in the sixth-slated match, falling in a super-tiebreaker 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-4) to David Lemieux-Sarrasin.

Nickell was impressed with his entire squad, but he wasn't surprised. He believes the Bulls are as good as any team in the MAC.

"We're able to beat everybody in the conference," Nickell said. "We just need to pull together, step up, and take advantage of opportunities. The students can expect to see us compete as hard as we can and hopefully come away with the MAC championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament."

Though he was pleased with the performance, Nickell is already mentally preparing for the next contest.

"Any win is a great win at this time of the year, but we're looking forward to facing Ball State next, and that match is where our focus is," Nickell said.

Ball State (11-13, 1-2 MAC) will come to Buffalo to take on the Bulls on Friday at 1 p.m.




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