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Arevalillo third-set comeback pushes Men's Tennis to MAC Championship

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From 1999 to May 2014, UB Athletics won three MAC titles. I shouldn't discount Rowing championships in the CAA, but in fifteen years, the school had managed just three team championships.

In 2014-15, it's a wildly different story, as Buffalo now has three conference titles, one from each season, thanks to Men's Tennis come-from-behind win over Binghamton today in the final match. Only Eastern Michigan and Akron also have three MAC team championships this year.

Today's win is even sweeter, coming over SUNY rival Binghamton in their first year in the conference and on UB's fourth try in six years in the finals. In past years Buffalo had lost to Western Michigan twice and Ball State once. The Broncos and Cardinals had combined to win ever conference championship since 1998, despite the increased competitiveness of Buffalo and Western Michigan.

In yesterday's semifinal victory over Northern Illinois, UB jumped out to 1-0 and 3-1 leads and didn't really look back in the 4-2 win, taking the doubles point and points from both #1 and #2 singles.

Today was rather different. Binghamton raced out to leads in all three doubles sets, and though UB fought back to win 6-4 at first doubles, it came down to a tight set in third doubles for the early lead. Damien David and Akhil Mehta fought to 5-5, but ultimately lost the point for an early 1-0 deficit.

Singles play didn't start out much better, as David fell quickly to Binghamton's Sid Hazarika 6-2, 6-2, and Binghamton owned a 2-0 lead. UB would need to win four of the final five matches to take the championship, and though everything happened a different rates, Binghamton won first sets in three of those five, dropping sets by only narrow margins at #2 and #4 singles.

From there, the next update was good, and everything shifted.

Down 2-0, Pablo Alvarez got UB on the board by closing out a two-set win at #2 singles, then Jonathan Hannestad also finished a straight-set win. Tied 2-2, the match became a best-of-three faceoff. And of those three, it was a coinflip at best, still feeling like the Bearcats had the momentum.

Notice that 5-1 deficit in the third set at sixth singles. That's Sergio Arevalillo, and I'll spoil the end for you: Serrgio Arevalillo is a damn HERO. But at this point, sixth singles looked a lost cause, and even though UB wasn't in terrible shape, it looked like they needed Hromic to close it out and Sebastian Ionescu to find a way to force a third set for a come-from-behind win at #3 singles.

First things first, Hromic put UB up 3-2 by winning his third set 6-4, but while the Bulls only needed to win one of the remaining two matches, Ionescu was down 3-2 in the second set, and Arevalillo was still down 5-3. 5-3, though, is better than 5-1.

There's not a whole lot more to say, other than that 5-3 became 5-4, 5-5, and 6-5 Buffalo, because Sergio is a damn HERO. At #6 singles, the last spot in the lineup, the team's captain came through, breaking three straight Binghamton serves while holding serve himself to take six straight points and the clinching match.

Life is good. This team set out all season with a "Championship or bust" mentality, and despite some serious setbacks in MAC play and in the final match, they fought back each time with their backs against the wall.

In the MAC tournament, Pablo Alvarez was named Most Outstanding Player, 2-0 in singles and 1-1 in doubles, with partner Amar Hromic, who was also named to the All-Tournament team and was also 2-0 in singles against the Huskies and Bearcats. In addition to those two, Jonathan Hannestad and Arevalillo were undefeated at #1 doubles, and Hannestad was 2-0 in the tournament.

With the win, UB obviously advances to the NCAA Tournament. They'll learn their fate Tuesday at 5:30 PM. Go Bulls!