March 21, 2009
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -
The 24th-ranked men’s tennis team pulled out a solid 4-0 win Saturday over No. 22 Boise State to advance to the finals of the Blue Gray National Collegiate Tennis Classic. With the win, the Crimson Tide moves to 15-2 on the season, while the Broncos dip to 11-7 overall.
“The score today was very deceiving as Boise State is a fantastic team,” said head coach Billy Pate. “We’ve got a balanced lineup, and we knew coming in this year we were going to have a lot of depth throughout. We’ve had extremely close matches with Boise State the last couple of years and knew this one would be similar.”
Doubles started out even as all three matchups held serve through the first several games. Midway through on No. 2 and No. 3, Boise State broke the Alabama duos to pull in front by a game. The Broncos No. 2 pair of seniors Stanley Sarapanich and Clancy Shields carried the momentum gained from the break throughout the rest of the match winning 8-4 over the Tide’s 49th-ranked team of senior Billy Mertz and junior Saketh Myneni. Alabama’s 35th ranked senior tandem of Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau cruised in the later part of their match to even things up with an 8-4 win at No. 1 over senior Kean Feeder and freshman James Meredith. Despite falling down a break early, senior Andrew Felsenthal and freshman Ricky Doverspike rallied to get back on serve and eventually take their match 8-5 over senior Blane Shields and junior Matt Solomon to award Alabama its third doubles point in three matches at the tournament.
The Tide got off the courts quickly in singles, yet again, sparked by Mertz at No. 5 finishing first with a commanding 6-1, 6-2 win over Sarapanich. This was the Tide senior’s third singles win in three days.
“Billy (Mertz) is so diligent and prepares so well for all of his matches,” said Pate. “He has climbed back from his injury last year to where he needs to be. We need him and rely on his leadership. No one is going to get free points from him.”
Moments later, both Myneni and senior Michael Jung were on match point. All odds favored Alabama for the win, but which court would finish first was yet to be determined. After minutes of going back and forth, it would be Myneni off the court next with a huge win at No. 1 over 38th-ranked Clancy Shields 6-1, 6-3. Jung wrapped up the match next at No. 6 with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Blane Shields to give the Tide its 15th win of the season.
“We know we are going to have our hands full again tomorrow,” added Pate. “One of the goals we set at the beginning of the year was to win this tournament. It is very special to us. We take great pride when we do well here.”
Alabama will play No. 4 Tennessee in the tournament championship Sunday beginning at 1:00 p.m. (CST) at Lagoon Park Tennis Center. This will be the Tide’s third appearance in the finals where Alabama is 1-1. The Tide won the tournament in 1989 and finished as runner-ups in 2007.
1. No. 35 Buikema/Thibaudeau (UA) def. No. 68 Feeder/Meredith (BSU) 8-4
2. Sarapanich/C. Shields (BSU) def. No. 49 Mertz/Myneni (UA) 8-4
3. Doverspike/Felsenthal (UA) def. B. Shields/Solomon (BSU) 8-5
Order of Finish: 2,1,3
1. No. 32 Saketh Myneni (UA) def. No. 38 Clancy Shields (BSU) 6-1, 6-3
2. No. 76 Mathieu Thibaudeau (UA) vs. No. 78 Kean Feeder (BSU) 7-6(3), 1-2, unf.
3. James Meredith (BSU) vs. Michael Thompson (UA) 6-3, 2-3, unf.
4. Dan Buikema (UA) vs. Cristian Hodel (BSU) 6-4, 3-4, unf.
5. Billy Mertz (UA) def. Stanley Sarapanich (BSU) 6-1, 6-2
6. Michael Jung (UA) def. Blane Shields (BSU) 6-4, 6-3
Order of Finish: 5,1,6*