By STEPHEN CAMPBELL
The University of Mary Washington men’s tennis team lost matches against Case Western Reserve (CWR) and St. Mary’s, but won matches against Vassar and North Carolina Wesleyan this past weekend. The team’s record stands at 3-3.
Saturday afternoon, Feb. 16, following the Eagles’ win over Vassar, head coach Todd Helbling displayed confidence heading into their match against CWR.
“We dominated throughout, just had trouble closing them out. We’ve got to finish,” said Helbling. The Eagles took five wins from doubles and one from singles for a solid 6-3 victory against Vassar.
Saturday’s second match began with two losses and a win at doubles against CWR. Sophomores Evan Charles and Donato Rizzolo played a tight game, with the lead going back and forth the whole time, before narrowly losing the tiebreaker, 8-9.
Junior Alex Blakhin and freshman David Lunding-Johansson worked hard to close the early lead taken by CWR, but at 6-8 they were unable to finish. Sophomores Tyler Carey and Kaleb Nguyen delivered, however, a punishing 8-3 win to keep the Eagles from getting swept at doubles.
“We needed a lead after doubles,” Helbling said. “We lost two close matches and they went into singles with a lead.”
Heading into singles, Helbling called his team’s performance at doubles “disappointing.”
The Eagles had not played poorly at doubles, but difficulty with finishing gave CWR the early lead. Shifting to singles, the Eagles did their best to recoup the points given up during doubles. However, the losses piled up in singles as well, with only Charles pulling out a win.
Blakhin went 6-2 in both sets, losing a tough game. Carey played a close first set, faltering at the tiebreaker, 6-7, and lost the second set, 6-2. Charles won the third singles match at 6-4, 6-4, providing a much-needed win for the Eagles.
However, at this point, they were down 2-4 overall, needing to win all three remaining singles matches. But CWR’s lead proved insurmountable, and Lundig-Johansson lost the fourth singles match, going 4-6 and 6-3.
Nguyen lost 4-6 in his first set, and an ankle injury forced him to retire at 0-3 in the second. Lastly, Rizzolo came out strong to win his first set, 6-4, lost his second, 3-6, and ultimately fell, 5-10, in the final.
“We’ve got to be more determined, earn our confidence, and if we don’t step up, we’ll keep losing to these teams,” Helbling said, referring to the close and certainly winnable losses. “All of the number 10 to 20 ranked teams, we’re just as good as them. We just need to do better in the pressure moments. Hopefully we’ll bounce back.”
The next day, Sunday, Feb. 17, UMW split matches with N.C. Wesleyan, losing 3-6, and St. Mary’s, winning handily 8-1. The Eagles remain ranked 21st and will go on to face Salisbury at 11 a.m. and Franklin & Marshall at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.