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The Blue & Gray Press | August 17, 2019

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Men's tennis splits opener



Junior Alex Blakhin returns a serve (photo credit: Clint Often).

The University of Mary Washington men’s tennis team heads into next week with a 1-1 record after splitting matches with Bridgewater College and George Mason University (GMU) on Sun., Feb. 10.

Head coach Todd Helbling wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. “I cannot say I was happy with our two matches on Sunday,” said Helbling. “I was certainly pleased with our effort and intensity, but we have to develop more of an attitude and determination in order to accomplish our goals.”

The day began on a positive note for the 21st ranked Eagles, as they defeated Bridgewater, 6-3, in the team’s spring opener. The Eagles won two of three doubles matches and four of six singles matches.

Sophomores Tyler Carey and Kaleb Nguyen won, 8-6, at one doubles, as sophomore Donato Rizzolo and freshman David Lunding-Johansson at two forced a tiebreak, only to fall 9-7.

The Eagles maintained the momentum as they shifted into the singles matches. Junior Alex Blakhin won at one, splitting two sets 1-6, 6-4 and taking the super breaker 10-6. Lunding-Johansson came back from his loss in doubles to win at five 6-3, 6-0. Carey carried his play from his doubles match with him as he cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 win at two.

The afternoon did not begin as well as the morning did, as the Eagles took on Division I GMU. The Eagles managed one win in doubles before the Patriots swept them in the singles matches.

On the subject of missed opportunities, Helbling said, “We had great opportunities in a few spots, and [GMU was] just a bit better than us in those spots. We have to take advantage of our opportunities.”

Reigning All-Americans Rizzolo and Evan Charles won at one in doubles, 9-8, giving the Eagles their only win against the Patriots.

As the singles matches began, the missed opportunities continued. Both Blakhin and Lunding-Johansson were able to win the second set of their matches. Blakhin would eventually fall, 10-6, in a super breaker, and Lunding-Johansson fell, 1-6, in the third set.

When asked about why the schedule for a Division III school includes a Division I opponent, Helbling said, “We play DI schools because they are great preparation for the caliber of competition we face against the top 20 teams in DIII.”

In Helbling’s tenure so far, UMW is 19-21 against DI teams, including wins over the University of Richmond, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Longwood University and George Mason.

“There was certainly improvement through the day,” said Helbling. This was the first dual match for the team since last May.

The Eagles continue their season this Saturday, when they host Vassar College at 9 a.m. and Case Western Reserve at 3 p.m.