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Radford Men’s Tennis ended their season on a high note as they defeated Big South conference rival Liberty University 5-2 on April 12 in Lynchburg, Va.
With the win, No. 75 Radford earned their fourth unbeaten season in BSC play and will enter the conference tournament as the top seed.
Radford got double wins from sophomore Nick Sayer and junior Thomas Dehaen, as well as sophomore Joe Mills and freshman Patrick O’Keefe.
Two of the three doubles matches required tiebreakers to decide the victor. Liberty was able to secure two wins in singles play, but then the Highlanders took over and notched quality wins from sophomore Stijn Meulemans, Dehaen, Mills, and O’Keefe. With the win, the Highs improve to 17-5 and a perfect 7-0 in the Big South Conference. RU will enjoy some time off before heading to Asheville, NC for the Big South Conference tournament starting on April 19-21.
The Highlanders certainly had their fair share of ups and downs this year, but the 2012 regular season was mostly a year of growth. Igor Ogrizek is the only senior on the squad this year, which means that most of the Highs’ starting lineup will return for the 2012-2013 season next year, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.
“A high point for the team this year was on spring break when we went up against Portland,” Dehaen said. “That was a really good win for us, because they were a good ranked team. Another big moment was going 7-0 in the conference. It’s a difficult thing to do.”
Sayer spent most of the year ranked at the national level by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), and ended the regular season ranked No. 105 after spending most of the year in the 70s and 80s.
“I improved my forehand and got a lot stronger, so I accomplished a few personal goals,” Sayer said. “As a team, we won all of our conference matches and we’re the number one seed in the tournament, and we won a couple decent matches on the road. Overall, I think we did what we needed to do.”
Radford University Head Coach Mike Anderson was quick to point out that his team hasn’t had a week off since January, and while most of the Radford campus had a nice week-long break for the spring, his team traveled out to the west coast to go up against ranked teams like Boise State, Portland, and Oregon. When the Highlanders weren’t on the road or actually playing matches (sometimes two matches a day), they were practicing two hours a day, most times five days a week.
Despite the Highlanders’ excellent play this year, including going 17-1 against opponents that were never nationally ranked, Coach Anderson seems to think the Highlanders might have a tougher time in the conference tournament than what some people are thinking.
“Having the number one seed in the tournament is a great thing because if you’re good enough, it will usually get you all the way to the finals,” Anderson said. “This year it’s a little different, because I think we have a harder route to the finals than the number two seed [University of North Carolina-Asheville] does. We’ll most likely have to play the winner of the Winthrop and Campbell match, and I think those are the number two and number three teams in the conference.”
The Highlanders will look to win their fifth Big South Conference tournament championship in six years when they go up against the rest of the Big South from April 19-21.