The men’s tennis team reached the finals of the University Athletic Association’s championship this past weekend in dramatic fashion, marking the first time that the team had made it to the finals in eight years.
“This is by far the toughest team that I have been on – and this result is by far the biggest win we have had as a team in my four years here,” senior captain Avinash Reddy said.
Head Coach Anna Khvalina said that as captain, Reddy has proved to be a solid leader throughout the year. The team’s quarterfinal match against Case Western Reserve University was an impressive win, with UR dominating 7-0.
Such a solid win gave the team confidence going into their tough semifinal match-up against Washington University of St. Louis.
UR lost their first three matches against Washington, including the doubles point and tough-fought matches played by Reddy and junior Josh Bruce-Black. UR needed to sweep their next four singles matches in order to advance to the next round.
“Even though we were down, we all had the confidence we could come back because of the amazing depth we have on our team,” freshman Eric Hansen said. “When we lost the doubles point, our senior leader Avinash Reddy got us together and told us he knew we would win all four singles matches. With his leadership, all of the underclassmen were able to keep their poise and earn the win.”
Khvalina remarked that the team’s freshmen, especially Hansen and Thanos Kantarelis, had an excellent weekend. Hansen won his match 6-2, 7-6 (7-0) against Washington, and went to three sets at No. 2 singles against his opponent from Emory University in the finals. Kantarelis, at the No. 4 spot, also won a crucial match against Washington.
In fact, Hansen will be nominated for UAA Rookie of the Year, with voting taking place later in the week for his impressive season performance.
“Eric Hansen is a much improved player from the fall semester and this can be credited to his unbelievable work ethic,” Khvalina said.
Junior Eric Prince won both his singles and doubles matches against Washington. In the most dramatic match of the weekend, sophomore Mike Lee captured the deciding win at No. 6 singles against Chris Kuppler of Washington, who beat Lee last year.
Lee fought through fatigue to beat Kuppler in a third set tiebreaker 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), to give the team a seat at the final round. “It’s been great to see Eric playing great tennis in the second half of the season,” Khvalina said. “It’s huge for our team.”
Khvalina and players commended Lee and each other, for their tremendous effort and success against Washington.
“It was a special effort from Mike with a lot of pressure on him and some cramps coming late in the match to come through the way he did,” Khvalina said.
“The entire team is especially proud of Mike Lee,” Hansen said. “He fought through cramping and an incredibly tough opponent and stayed cool under pressure in the tiebreaker in the third set to give the team a win we have been working for the entire season.”
Having reached the finals of the UAA, UR faced Emory and lost 7-0. However, team members seemed pleased with their overall performance. The team was ranked No. 24 prior to downing No. 17 Washington, but that is likely to change.
“We had two major goals of reaching postseason and the finals of UAAs,” Khvalina said. “This past weekend, we accomplished one and took a step toward the other. The team showed a lot of character in winning the match against a tough team like Washington from such a deficit. I think we are a team with both talent and character which makes us tough to beat for anyone.”
The team will end their regular season this coming weekend when they take on The College of New Jersey and Drew University.
“We need to win both of these matches to be selected for postseason play,” Khvalina said. “I think we are ready.”
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