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The Radford Men’s Tennis team almost came away with a clean sweep this past weekend, until they were tripped up on Sunday. Things started off on a high note on April 7 as the Highlanders beat University of North Carolina-Asheville to defend their Big South regular season title. With the win, this is the Highs’ sixth title in the last seven years as the team continued their dominance over the Big South Conference. The match against the Bulldogs did not come easy however, and RU had to bounce back after losing the doubles portion of the match. But singles play was the deciding factor in this match as RU was able to bounce back with wins from sophomore Stijn Meulemans and sophomore Nicholas Sayer. RU also got wins from sophomore Joe Mills, senior Igor Ogrizek, junior Thomas Dehaen, and freshman Patrick O’Keefe. With the win, Radford improved to 15-4 overall and a perfect 6-0 in the conference.
Sayer retained his No. 78 ITA ranking, proving that he is still one of the best players in the country in only his sophomore year.
Radford did not have to wait long to continue their win streak as they returned to the court that afternoon to play Bluefield State. Radford was able to handle them without much trouble and won the non-conference match 6-1. The Highlanders have won 55 of the last 57 home matches. RU won two doubles matches and then continued their dominance with singles play. The Highs picked up wins from Meulemans, Ogrizek, Mills, sophomore Randall Carter, as well as freshman Javier Waase in singles play. Waase has played sporadically this year as one of the younger players on the team, but RU Head Coach Mike Anderson has made a point to see the freshman out on the court more often against a few tougher opponents. Waase is 3-2 in singles competition on the year, while Sayer leads the Highlanders in singles wins with 28. Meulemans is right behind Sayer with 23 wins.
Radford then had to pack up and head to George Washington University to play a non-conference match on April 8. This match would prove to be just as difficult as the two from the previous day. The doubles point proved to be the deciding factor in this match as GWU was able to hold off No. 73 ranked Radford.
RU’s lone doubles point came from Mills and O’Keefe. George Washington had a 2-0 lead before the Highs came racing back with three straight wins from Dehaen, Meulemans and Mills. But it would not be enough as Radford fell in the third match of their brutal stretch. The losses to George Washington and last week’s loss to East Tennessee State are the Highs only two losses of the season that have not come against nationally ranked opponents.
The Highlanders are set to take on the rest of the Big South Conference in the conference tournament, starting on April 19. The Highs have wrapped up the number one seed in the tournament, and will statistically have the easiest path to the title game.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association hasn’t released individual player rankings for the past two weeks, but Sayer is still ranked No. 78 per the latest rankings.
GWU improved to 13-7 on the year and Radford fell to 16-5. Radford will be able to rest up for a few days before they hit the road again to face off with Big South foe Liberty University Flames on April 12 in the final Big South regular season contest, where the Highlanders will try to finish out the season 7-0.
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