Hatters relinquish perfect conference record
The men's tennis team (16-6) suffered 5-2 and 6-1 losses to 59th nationally ranked ETSU and 72nd ranked USC upstate, dropping their perfect conference record to 7-2.
ETSU's 12th nationally ranked singles player Enrique Olivares, also ranked 68th in doubles with partner Alex Ahlgren, brought the heat to the Hatters' courts.
Despite the 8-6 doubles win by Filip Kricka and Maksim Levanovich, ETSU snagged the doubles point with a prior 8-4 defeat over Mark Mestan and Cesare Gallo.
The university did not go down without a fight in the singles; Mark Mestan and Njal Stene each won their sets and gained the Hatters' two points for the match.
Stene kept his set number to two, securing 6-4 and 7-5 victories. Mestan lost his first set 6-7 and came back in the second (6-4), continuing his success with a tie- breaker score of 1-0.
The other four Hatters had already been defeated and the match was a set loss. The university was forced to relinquish its position as conference leader.
Two days later, the team stepped onto the courts with USC Upstate, who at the time held a perfect 8-0 winning record in the conference, and once again lost the doubles point.
Head Coach Pierre Pilote said, "They are a very strong doubles team and we knew that from the beginning. We were not ready to play."
Gokay Celik was the first to finish his singles sets and tied the match 1-1 with 6-3 and 6-2 wins, rekindling hopes for a turnover by the rest of his teammates.
Cesare Gallo and Mark Mestan lost both their sets, leaving Filip Kricka, Njal Stene, and Maksim Levanovich to determine the outcome.
All three lost their first sets, however Kricka and Levanovich each took a 7-6 victory in their second while Njal continued his struggle.
With the other two players tied 1-1 in their sets, as well as USC's 3-1 lead, Njal's second round outcome determined the necessity for a third set for Kricka and Levanovich.
Despite several leads he took within his sets, Stene couldn't pull away from his opponent and fell 5-7, 3-6, giving the determining fourth point to USC Upstate.
Stene said, "I got too confident and started playing aggressively; pushing the ball and letting my lead get to my head, and I just lost it."
Kricka and Levanovich ultimately were defeated 1-6 and 3-6 in their third sets, sending the Buccaneers home with a 6-1 victory.
Because USC Upstate is currently being re-classified for their NCAA Division I status, they will not be eligible to compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships.
Coach Pilote said, "Every game is a conference championship for them. They came out wanting the win more and we didn't put up the fight we should have."
With the two losses they endured the university will most likely fall to the #2 seed for the Atlantic Sun Championships, with ETSU sitting at the top.
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