The men’s tennis team traveled to Vassar College over the weekend for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Championships, a two-day tournament that sends its singles and doubles champions to the national level.
The Yellowjackets came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed in both singles and doubles, with sophomore Thanos Kantarelis earning the top spot in the singles draw. Kantarelis and sophomore Eric Hansen took the high seed in doubles as defending champions of the tournament.
The first day of action sent four of five UR singles players to the round of 16. Senior Eric Prince defeated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Joe Black, 6-3, 6-2, in the first round and Lyle Moran of Ithaca College, 6-3, 6-4.
Senior Josh Bruce-Black steamrolled Allen Cheon of Manhattanville College, 6-1, 6-1, in the first round, but faced a tougher challenge against Roger Mosteller from The College of New Jersey. Down two set points in the first, Bruce-Black rallied for a 7-6 (2), 7-5 win.
“I really had to give it my all and stay mentally strong throughout the match to advance to the third round,” Bruce-Black said.
Sophomore Eric Hansen crushed Chris Seeger of host Vassar College, 6-0, 6-0, and then defeated SUNY Oneonta’s Eric Bratt, 7-5, 6-4. Freshmen Jeff Titcombe advanced to the third round with scores of 6-1, 6-1, and 7-5, 6-1.
The surprising omission from this group was Kantarelis, who dropped a tough three-set match to Chris Chang of New York University in the second round. After Chang took the first set in a tiebreaker, Kantarelis roared back with a convincing 6-1 win in the second. Chang ended up stealing a marathon final set by a score of 11-9.
All three doubles teams posted two victories on Saturday to move into the quarterfinals. Titcombe and sophomore Aaron Gettinger posted a 9-7 win over Ryan McDonald and Rappaport of Drew University and followed it up with an 8-5 victory over St. Lawrence University’s Matt Dwyer and Jon Satkowski. The teams of Kantarelis/Hansen and Prince and junior John Park rolled through two matches each to round out day one.
The second day of play produced somewhat of a surprise for the Yellowjackets. Bruce-Black, the team’s fifth singles player, racked up three straight wins to get to the finals, where he was beaten by Mikhail Gurvich of NYU. The score of the championship match was 6-1, 6-3.
“I just wanted to go out and play my game and give everything I had left,” Bruce-Black said. “I was disappointed I lost, but I felt like specifically in the second set I played very well and fought to the end.”
To get to the final, he beat Union College’s Andrew Draznin, 6-1, 2-3, Chang, 7-5, 6-0, and Skidmore College’s Greg Sher, 7-5, 6-2.
“I thought I played pretty well throughout the tournament,” Bruce-Black said. “I was consistent and came up with big shots when I needed them.”
Coach Anna Khvalina commented on Bruce-Black’s performance as well.
“Josh may have been somewhat of a surprise to people given that he was coming in as our fifth player,” she said. “I think it simply demonstrates the depth of our team, and it was great to see Josh, who is a senior, have such success at this tournament.”
“He did not drop a set on his way to the final,” she continued. “His serving all through the tournament was responsible for raising his game up a notch. He hit more aces than I have seen hit ever before.”
As for the rest of the team, two singles players made the quarterfinal round. Prince beat Dwyer in a close three set match, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, before being ousted by Sher, 6-2, 6-2. Titcombe also won a round of 16 match before losing in the quarters to eventual champion Gurvich, 6-3, 6-4. Hansen lost his first match of the day to Ian Corn of NYU by a score of 6-1, 6-3.
All three doubles teams fell in close quarterfinal matches on Sunday. Titcombe and Gettinger were defeated 8-5, Prince and Park lost 8-6 to the eventual champions, and the top seeded team of Kantarelis and Hansen were beaten by Ciolino and Flynn of Ithaca College, 8-5.
“The [doubles] draw has 32 teams and it’s an accomplishment to be seeded No. 1 in that field,” Khvalina said. “However, with that comes having every team come at you with their best shot, which is what Eric and Thanos had to get through.”
“They fell short of defending the title, but I think they’ll be back next year better prepared for that experience. They are very hard-working and hopefully this loss will make them hungry for spring.”
Moeller can be reached at email@example.com.