Men’s Tennis can’t repeat Big South title run

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Gemma Valls

gvalls@radford.edu

The Radford men’s tennis team ended their long season Friday, April 19 after being defeated 4-2 by Coastal Carolina University in the semifinals of the 2013 Big South Men’s Tennis Tournament held at the Winthrop University Memorial Tennis Courts.

The Highlanders showed up strong on Thursday afternoon getting a 4-1 victory against the home team Winthrop in the first round of the tournament.

Juniors Stijn Meulemans and Joe Mills at No. 2 doubles got a relaxed 8-2 win against Yuta Hirokawa and Steven Patrick, but Juan Pablo Boada and Corey Decandia answered rapidly for Winthrop, downing sophomore Patrick O’Keefe and junior Randall Carter on court three 8-4.

Fortunately, junior Nicholas Sayer and senior Thomas Dehaen put their best shots on the first court to defeat Dylan Comerford and Peter Nagovnak in a tiebreaker giving the first point of the match to RU.

Starting the singles matches leading 1-0, only needing three more victories to pass to the semifinals pushed the Highlanders to get it done. O’Keefe at No. 6 singles played a solid game to dispose of Michael Chen 6-0 6-1.

Shortly after, Sayer at No. 2 singles got the third victory of the day defeating the 2013 Big South Rookie of the Year Ivar Aramburu in straight sets 6-0, 6-4.

With the score 3-0, the Eagles tried to make a come back when Nagovnak got a 6-3, 6-4 win on court five over Carter and Pablo Boada forced a third set on court three against Mill.

However, Meulemans, who entered the tournament with a 12 match-win streak, decided the match for the

Highs at No.1 singles with a score of 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), solidifying the match 4-1 for RU.

The next day, the Highlanders faced the top seed Coastal Carolina in the semifinals, but after a strong showing on each court, the team was unable to make it to the Big South Final.

The day started off on the wrong foot for RU. Doubles got off to a slow start when O’Keefe and Carter couldn’t keep up, losing 8-1 to the Chanticleers.

Although Meulemans and Mills looked hopeful for a come back after fighting to stay in the match from being 5-1 down, CCU was able to close the match out to win 8-5. The win at No. 2 doubles gave CCU the first point of the match.

The singles matches started off well for the Big South top seed with a 6-1, 6-2 victory from Ted Nilsoon over Mills at court four, making the score 2-0. However, the Highlanders got on the board when O’Keefe won his forth match in a row at the No. 6 position over Hunter Whalen 6-2, 6-4.

Right after, Meulemans pushed his win streak to 14 in a row and tied the match at 2-2 after defeating Leo Christofides 7-5, 6-0 at the top flight. Coincidentally, the last match Meulemans lost this season was against the same guy at No. 3 singles when the Highs played CCU during the regular season.

Unfortunately, after a battle between the two teams, Coastal got two victories on courts three and five before Sayer was able to close out his second set and win his match at the second spot.

As a result, CCU took the win 4-2, putting them in position to advance to the championship final. It was the first time the Chanticleers have been to a conference final since 1996.

The season was a let down in consideration to the past seasons from the men’s team. Five of the last six years have seen the Highs win the conference championship. This season, however, the team finished 8-13 overall and 4-4 in conference play.

After sweeping many of the conference awards last season, Meulemans and Carter were the sole recipients this year. Meulemans was recognized for being a flight winner at the No.1 singles position, while also being recognized for all-conference singles. Carter was named to the all-academic team for the second year in a row.

Looking onto next year, the Highs will be missing Dehaen and Meulemans from the team roster. Dehaen will graduate this spring and although only being a junior, Meulemans has opted to return to his home country, Belgium, to pursue graduate studies and try to break into the pro tennis ranks.