CLAREMONT, Calif. –In their second trip to the NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis West Regionals at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center in as many years, No. 5 Cal Lutheran overcame an early deficit to earn a Second Round victory over the No. 12 UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs to advance to the Third Round of action on Sunday.
Meeting for the second time in 2013, CLU came out with something to prove today after falling on the road to UCSC earlier this spring. With that loss, the Kingsmen dropped to the No. 3 spot in the regional ranking with the Slugs taking over the No. 2 spot behind No. 1 West Region and National leader and weekend host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Tomorrow CLU and CMS will grind it out for the opportunity to travel to Michigan for the Semifinals, Quarterfinals and Finals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Though they came out to the courts fired up, the day started slowly for the Kingsmen who trailed 2-1 after doubles action. But, as they had been working on in practice during recent days, the singles players made the difference with four wins to steal the match after falling behind early. Nicholas Ballou and Ray Worley were each good for two wins with Devon Belcher and Alex Nichols earning a victory apiece as the teams played to decision not completion.
On the number one doubles court Ballouand Worleyopened a 6-0 lead on Erik Rosner and Erich Koenig en route to an 8-1 victory and the first CLU point of the day.
Chris Goets and Andre Halabi controlled the pace of play at number two doubles, defeating Alex Nichols and Connor Treacy 8-2.
On the number three court Thomas Millet and Marcelo Sousa battled, tied 1-1 early before falling behind 5-2. The Violet and Gold duo chipped back into it at 6-4, but the UCSC pair of Bryce Bettwy and Max Littlejohn took the final two points of the match.
Moving to singles play, Cal Lutheran won the first set of each match to steal the momentum. CLU was able to fight through the heat as the temperature increased making it nearly 100-degrees on the courts.
Devon Belcher came out with fresh legs and used the rest to his advantage by quickly winning on court number six. He took down Goetz 6-3, 6-2 in what was arguably his best match of the season.
At number two, Worley, the last player to take his first set, played solid, smart tennis to defeat Halabi 6-2, 6-2, avenging a loss when the two met on April 14.
After Ballou cruised to a 6-3 first set, Koenig used a lot of weapons to make things difficult for the top-ranked player in the region. Seemingly swapping points, it was the Cal Lutheran senior who won the tie-breaker (7-4) to take the second set 7-6 for the win.
With his teammates watching along the fence, Nichols finished off Bettwy in the second set, winning 6-1, 6-4 to clinch the match and send CLU to play on Sunday.
When play was terminated both Treacy and Millet were in progress. Treacy was tied with Sam Rodgers 5-5 in the second set after the CLU sophomore took the first 6-2. Millet took the first set 6-1 and dropped the second 6-2. He was behind 4-2 when play ceased.
Meeting a familiar foe tomorrow will not be an easy task for the Kingsmen.
“They have shown their strengths throughout the season and we need to come out firing in doubles to have a chance to win,” Ballou said in a post-match interview. “Hopefully we can click together early and come out on top tomorrow.”
Cal Lutheran (18-4) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (27-3) will play tomorrow, May 12 at noon in the Third Round. CLU has lost twice to CMS this spring by margins of 6-3 both times.
The Sunday winner will advance to play in the Quarterfinals at Stowe Stadium. Kalamazoo College will host the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals from May 20-22 in Kalamazoo, Mich.