Time is quickly running out for UB's Tennis teams to position themselves in their respective MAC tournaments. Each have just two matches remaining in the regular season.
As time runs down though, the two squads are heading in opposite directions. The younger Women have won two straight to move up in the standings and position themselves for a year-over-year improvement and a favorable first-round matchup, while the Men despite boasting four upperclassmen and 2015 championship experience, are once again on the cusp of missing out on the postseason, with today's loss the most damaging yet.
Women: W 5-2 vs Northern Illinois
A week after a big upset win over MAC-leading Ball State, and a sweep of the MAC weekly awards, the Bulls keep rolling with a solid performance against the Huskies, easily taking the doubles point, and winning the first three singles matches (Laura Holterbosch, Sanjana Sudhir, and Mercedes Losada Rubio) to clinch the match as quickly as possible. NIU could only make it respectable late with wins in the final two matches at #1 and #6.
Of note in this one is Losada Rubio jumping up to second singles. All three of UB's freshmen have had strong singles, but I think Mercedes has flown under the radar compared to Chantal Martinez Blanco's time at #2 singles and Sudhir's gaudy win-loss record (13-4, mostly at #5 singles). If the former can keep winning, UB can really take even another step forward.
On the season, UB moves to 4-2 and sits fourth in the conference. A win tomorrow against 3-3 Akron would all but certainly clinch a top-four seed in the tournament, a significant improvement over last year's sixth-place finish that even then was helped by a cancelled match against Ball State. This team has a great foundation, plenty of young contributors, and a real chance to move into the top of the conference next year. A strong finish and postseason could accelerate that process.
1. Stojanovska/Agasieva (UB) def. Osabuohien/Youel (NIU); 6-3
2. Martinez Blanco/Mercedes Losada Rubio (UB) vs. Dekkinga/Erasmus (NIU); 4-4 (DNF)
3. Holterbosch/Haraldson (UB) def. Alvarez/Montgomerie (NIU); 6-1
Order of Finish: 3,1,2
1. Osabuohien (NIU) def. Stojanovska (UB); 7-5, 5-7, 10-4
2. Losada Rubio (UB) def. Alvarez (NIU); 6-2, 6-0
3. Martinez Blanco (UB) def. Dekkinga (NIU); 6-3, 6-0
4. Holterbosch (UB) def. Erasmus (NIU); 6-2, 6-2
5. Sudhir (UB) def. Youel (NIU); 6-0, 6-1
6. Montgomerie (NIU) def. Haraldson (UB); 6-3, 6-3
Order of Finish: 4,5,2,3,6,1
Men: L 3-4 at Ball State
The book on the Men at the beginning of the year was that the experience was there, but the departure of Damien David and Sebastian Ionescu left holes at the top of the lineup. Amar Hromic has stepped up in a big way, but the middle and bottom of the group has been unable to carry the team as it did last year. Today's narrow loss to Ball State puts the Bulls out of the tournament picture and needing to make up a tiebreaker against the Cardinals, a stark chiasmus to last year, when a senior day win over the same program proved the difference in UB sneaking into the MAC Championship.
UB may yet fight back; they're done with conference-leading Western Michigan now, but will need a pair of wins over teams higher in the standings in Northern Illinois and Binghamton to leap somebody (likely Binghamton, given UB's 2-0 record over the Bearcats in this hypothetical). This is two years in a row that an experienced Bulls group has struggled against the middle of the conference, and this year's team boasts more seniors than last.
In this match, the Bulls fell down 3-1 quickly after losing the doubles points and losing in straight sets at #1 and #6 singles. Sergio Arevalillo claimed a long two-set win to start a comeback, and Amar Hromic and Ethan Nittolo both played into third sets, with each needing victories.
UB nearly did it. Hromic, moved down to #3 singles after much of the year in the #1 spot, bounced back from a lopsided second set to win his third, and Nittolo played deep into a back-and-forth final set himself, but couldn't hold serve to get his set to 6-6 and was broken by the Cardinals' Patrick Downs to drop the final set 7-5 and the match. It's the latest in a number of hard-luck losses for Nittolo, who is just 4-11 this spring and an unlucky 2-6 in third sets, with no wins in those instances since Cornell in late January.
The Bulls are at Northern Illinois Sunday in what boils down to an absolute must win if the group wants a chance to defend their title.
1. Stutz/Andersen (BSU) def. Alvarez/Hromic (UB); 6-4
2. Andersen/Downs (BSU) def. Mehta/Miller (UB); 6-0
3. Arevalillo/Nittolo (UB) def. Helm/Carney (BSU); 6-3
1. Andersen (BSU) def. Alvarez (UB); 6-1, 6-2
2. Arevalillo (UB) def. Stutz (BSU); 7-6 (7-2), 6-4
3. Hromic (UB) def. Guzina (BSU); 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
4. Mehta (UB) def. Andersen (BSU); 7-5, 6-4
5. Downs (BSU) def. Nittolo (UB); 1-6, 7-5, 7-5
6. Marko Guzina (BSU) def. Tony Miller (UB) 6-1, 7-5