Nittany Lion Tennis Rolls Past the 21st-Ranked Crimson Tide, 4-3, to Advance at the Blue-Gray Tennis Classic
March 13, 2008
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - After dropping a tight doubles point, the 65th-ranked Penn State men's tennis team (5-5, 1-0) stormed to four singles victories to secure a 4-3 thrilling victory over No. 21 Alabama (11-5) in the first round of the Blue-Gray Tennis Classic at the Lagoon Tennis Center on Thursday.
With Alabama leading 3-2, Penn State notched a pair of clutch three-set victories to manage the 4-3 upset. Senior Michael James (Clifton, Va.) clinched the match for the Lions with a three-set triumph at No. 1. James rallied from a set down and a 5-4 deficit in the third, and went on to secure a 7-6 tiebreak victory to send the Nittany Lions into the quarterfinals at the Blue-Gray Tennis Classic. The win marked just the third time in 33 matches that the Lions have been victorious when dropping the doubles point.
Penn State will meet No. 35 Boise State in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Nittany Lions will play at 11 a.m. CT at the Lagoon Tennis Center. Fans can follow the match at www.bluegraytennis.com. Boise State defeated Oklahoma by a score of 4-1.
"It was a great college tennis match," said head coach Todd Doebler. "It was unbelievable to see how hard we competed and fought to beat a very good Alabama team. Being down 3-2 with two matches on court, it was great to see a freshman come through, and then to have Michael win a match like that, it was very exciting for the program."
The Crimson Tide secured a 1-0 lead in the match after snagging a close doubles point. In the No. 1 match the Nittany Lion team of junior Adam Slagter (Austin, Texas) and freshman Eddie Bourchier (Hobart, Australia) faced off with the Alabama team of Mathieu Thibaudeau and Daniel Buikema. Thibaudeau and Buikema scored an 8-5 victory. Slagter and Bourchier fall to 5-4 in dual bouts this spring.
James and junior Brendan Lynch (North Potomac, Md.) squared the doubles with an 8-5 triumph over the Crimson Tide duo of Saketh Myneni and Michael Jung in the No. 2 match. James and Lynch remain perfect on the season after they improved to 7-0 in duals.
Alabama's Sammy Struyf and Javier Bes clinched the tight doubles point with an 8-6 victory over Penn State's team of senior James Dwyer (Peachtree City, Ga.) and Ryan Gormley (Las Vegas, Nev.). This marked the first time Dwyer and Gormley played together this spring.
With the Crimson Tide leading 1-0, the match turned to singles play. Slagter knotted the match at 1-1 with a dominant straight-sets victory over Thibaudeau at No. 2. The Nittany Lion junior jumped out to a one-set lead with a convincing 6-1 triumph in the first. He then sealed the point with a 6-4 victory in the second. Slagter is now 54-27 in his Lion career.
Nonetheless, Alabama came right back with a straight-sets victory in the No. 3 bout. The Tide's Struyf ousted Lynch in a tight first-set tiebreaker (7-6). Struyf cruised to a 6-1 edge in the third to lock up Alabama's second point in the match. The loss proved to be only Lynch's third of the spring, as he is now 7-3 in duals.
Dwyer defeated Houssam Yassine in the No. 6 match to give Penn Sate its second point in the match. Dwyer took a one-set lead with a 6-2 win in the first. The Lion senior then finished off the Alabama freshman with a 6-3 victory in the second. Dwyer is 2-1 this spring.
The Crimson Tide took a 3-2 lead when Bes knocked off Gormley in the fifth singles contest. Bes won a tight first, 6-4, and went on to secure the Tide point with a 6-3 victory in the second set. With the loss, Gormley falls to 6-3 in dual matches this season.
Despite Alabama's 3-2 lead, the Nittany Lions continued to battle in singles play. The final two matches on court were the difference makers for Penn State. Both went into decisive third sets. Bourchier battled to a three-set victory over Buikema at No. 4 to set the match score at 3-3. Rookie Bourchier took a one-set lead with a 6-4 win in the first, but Buikema came right back in the second to square the match at one set apiece, 6-2. In final set, Bourchier served to a 3-1 lead. However, Buikema drew to within 4-3, but the Australian rookie clinched the point for the Nittany Lions with a 6-4 victory.
All eyes then turned to the No. 1 match featuring 62nd-ranked James and 94th-ranked Myneni. Myneni managed to secure a very tight first set with a 7-5 victory, but the Lion senior was not done. James dominated the second set. After jumping out to a 4-1 lead, the 2007 All-Big Ten Nittany Lion secured the second set, 6-2. The match then went into a crucial third set. James jetted out to a 3-1 edge in the third, but Myneni won the next three games to take a 4-3 lead. With Myneni leading 5-4, James rallied to send the third set into a tiebreaker. The Nittany Lion veteran clinched the match with a 7-4 victory in the breaker. James improves to 21-7 overall on the year, including 6-3 in duals. He owns a 102-32 career record at Penn State.
Action will continue in Montgomery throughout the weekend. For more information and live scoring from the Blue-Gray Tennis Classic, log on to www.bluegraytennis.com.
Final Score: #65 Penn State 4, #21 Alabama 3