MUNCIE, IN – After being denied of the opening doubles point in heartbreaking fashion, the University at Buffalo men's tennis team rallied to win four consecutive singles matches and defeat Toledo, 4-1, in the semifinal round of the Mid-American Conference Championships at Ball State's Cardinal Creek Tennis Center on Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Bulls move into their first ever MAC Championship match and will face the winner of the other semifinal between Ball State and Western Michigan.
After losing the doubles point, the Bulls came back to take the opening set in all six singles matches and quickly put three contests in the bank with victories at sixth, second and fourth singles.
Sophomore Alex Kalinin tied the match at 1-1 when he defeated Toledo's Bryant Dudzik, 6-1, 6-3, at sixth singles. The Bulls then took a 2-1 lead when junior Marcelo Mazzetto knocked off Sven Burus, 6-2, 6-4, in the number two match. Freshman George Tibil put the Bulls in the driver's seat with his 6-2, 6-3 victory over Leo Sarria in the number four match.
With the Bulls holding a 3-1 lead and three matches remaining unfinished, gaining the clinching point became tense as the number one, three and five matches were very close. Roughly an hour after taking the 3-1 win, the Bulls earned the fourth point. After claiming a 7-5 victory in the first set of the number five contest, freshman Vusa Hove put the Bulls into the finals as he rallied from a 5-4 deficit in the second set to win the next three games and down Gursher Harika, 7-5.
As the Bulls won the deciding match, the two matches that were still ongoing were abandoned. Sophomore Wojciech Starakiewicz was in a second-set tiebreaker of the number one match against Aleksandar Elezovic. Starakiewicz won the opening set in a 7-4 tiebreaker. In the number three match, senior Kirill Kolomyts and Nutthavit Likitkumchorn had split their first two sets, exchanging 6-4 decisions. Kolomyts trailed in the third set, 5-3, when play was abandoned.
The Bulls needed to rally for the four singles wins after losing the doubles point. UB won at third doubles as Hove and junior Mitch Zenaty easily downed Dudzik and Terence Weigand, 8-3, in the first of the three matches to reach conclusion. The first and second doubles matches were extremely tight. The number one match was decided in a 9-7 tiebreaker as Kolomyts and Mazzetto fell to Burus and Elezovic. Toledo clinched the point as Likitkumchorn and Sarria downed Starakiewicz and Tibil by a 9-7 margin.
"I'm extremely proud of our fight. We came back after losing a doubles point," said UB head coach Lee Nickell. "We have things that we need to tweak in dubs and hopefully we'll get them together before our match tomorrow, but to come out like we did and win the first set of every singles match put us in a position to win. There's nothing more that I could ask from these guys. We've got a tough match tomorrow and we're excited. "
Both teams battled sustained winds of 20 mph, the uppermost limit that a match can be contested on outdoor courts. Friday's second semifinal match was moved indoors to the Muncie YMCA because of the winds and higher gusts.
"The conditions were adverse today but we're a better outdoor team and I think that when the wind is like this, the team did a great job of handling it," commented Nickell.
Buffalo 4, Toledo 1
1 Sven Burus/Aleksandar Elezovic (UT) d. Kirill Kolomyts/Marcelo Mazzetto (UB), 9-8 (7)
2 Nutthavit Likitkumchorn/Leo Sarria (UT) d. Wojciech Starakiewicz/George Tibil (UB), 9-7
3 Vusa Hove/Mitch Zenaty (UB) d. Bryant Dudzik/Terrence Weigand (UT), 8-3
Order of finish: 3, 1, 2
1 Wojciech Starakiewicz (UB) led Aleksandar Elezovic (UT), 7-6 (4), 6-6 DNF
2 Marcelo Mazzetto (UB) d. Sven Burus (UT), 6-2, 6-4
3 Nutthavit Likitkumchorn (UT) led Kirill Kolomyts (UB), 4-6, 6-4, 5-3 DNF
4 George Tibil (UB) d. Leo Sarria (UT), 6-2, 6-3
5 Vusa Hove (UB) d. Gursher Harika (UT), 7-5, 7-5
6 Alex Kalinin (UB) d. Bryant Dudzik (UT), 6-1, 6-3
Order of finish: 6, 2, 4, 5