Penn State Advances to NCAA Second Round With Thrilling 4-2 Win Over UNC Wilmington

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Freshman Alex Fennell


Freshman Alex Fennell

May 10, 2014

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Trailing 5-4 in his third set, sophomore Leonard Stakhovsky (Kiev, Ukraine) rallied back to clinch the match for the Penn State men's tennis team. The Nittany Lions earned a tough 4-2 win over UNC Wilmington in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. Penn State dropped the doubles point, but got victories at the top four singles spots, including the deciding win by Stakhovsky.

The Nittany Lions improved to 22-5 this spring and advanced to Sunday's second round match at 1 p.m. They will take on No. 4 Virginia, who defeated Army, 4-0.

"I thought we played so much better to start this tournament," said Head Coach Jeff Zinn. "I liked our fire and our passion. Everyone was playing well. Even though we lost a couple matches, the guys played amazing. They gave everything they had and that was a theme for us coming into this match. In the NCAA's, this is where your legacy is made, we talk about that a lot, and you never want to feel that you didn't give a 100 percent. I was very pleased with the overall team effort."

UNC Wilmington won the doubles point with victories at No. 1 and No. 3. It was just the fourth time this spring that Penn State lost the doubles point.

"We don't lose the doubles point too often," said Zinn. "But we felt like we had some good practices. We were ahead in doubles and didn't close out the way we normally do and that's something we'll talk about tonight."

Senior Russell Bader (Austin, Texas) and Stakhovsky, ranked 26th in the ITA Poll, matched up against the Seahawks' Rafael Aita and Sam Williams at the top doubles spot. The Penn State duo took an early 2-1 lead, but UNC Wilmington took four of the next five games to take a 5-3 advantage. However, Bader and Stakhovsky rallied back to take a 6-5 lead. UNC Wilmington forced a tiebreaker at 7-7 and won the tiebreaker 7-0 to clinch the match and the doubles point. Bader and Stakhovsky dropped to 17-6 this spring.

At the No. 3 doubles position, sophomores Matt Barry (Lido Beach, N.Y.) and Roman Trkulja (Toronto, Canada) took on UNC Wilmington's Zach Hublitz and Christian Van der Burgh. The Nittany Lion pair took an early 3-1 lead, but the Seahawks won the next four games to hold a 5-3 advantage. UNC Wilmington took three of the next four points to earn an 8-6 victory. Barry and Trkulja suffered their first loss this spring, falling to 5-1.

Junior Michael Reilly (Raleigh, N.C.) and senior Chris Young (Melbourne, Australia) competed against Pedro Mol and Kaue Pereira at No. 2 doubles. Reilly and Young claimed an early 5-1 lead and were ahead 7-6 when the match was stopped. The singles portion included an hour and 40 minute rain delay that forced the match to be moved indoors to Boar's Head Athletic Club.

At the top singles spot, Stakhovsky, ranked 37th in the nation, took on another ranked opponent, UNC Wilmington's Rafael Aita, ranked 50th. Stakhovsky took an early 4-1 advantage on his way to a 6-4 first set win. Stakhovsky lead 2-1 in the second set, but Aita came back to win the set 7-5. In the deciding set, Stakhovsky trailed 5-4, but won three straight points to clinch the match point for Penn State. Stakhovsky improved to 18-6 this spring. He earned his eighth win against a ranked opponent and his fourth against a Top 50 foe.

In the match at No. 2 singles, Bader faced UNC Wilmington's Pedro Mol. In the first set, Bader took a 3-1 lead on his way to a 6-2 set win. Bader followed that up with a 6-2 victory in the second set. Bader improved to 21-6 this spring and 28-10 overall. He has won four straight matches.

Bader also earned his 95th career win, moving him into sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list at Penn State. He passed Michael Carter (1993-97).

Freshman Alex Fennell (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.) took on UNC Wilmington's Sam Williams at No. 3 singles. Fennell jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but Williams claimed the next two points. Fennell responded by winning the next two points to take the set, 6-4. Fennell continued his momentum in the second set, winning 6-1. The freshman improved to 16-9 this spring and 20-12 overall.

At the fourth singles spot, Barry matched up against the Seahawks' Kaue Pereira. In the opening set, Barry jumped out to a 3-1 lead on his way to a 6-3 set win. In the second set, Barry took a 2-0 lead and won 6-1. Barry moved to 17-5 this spring and 26-9 overall.

Freshman Nika Dolidze (Tbilisi, Georgia) got the start at No. 6 singles against UNC Wilmington's Christian Van der Burgh. Dolidze dropped a back-and-forth first set, 6-4. In the second set, Dolidze jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Van der Burgh rallied to tie it at 3-3. Van der Burgh won the set, 7-5, to take the match. Dolidze fell to 3-2 in dual matches.

At the fifth singles spot, Trkulja matched up against Santtu Leskinen. In a tough back-and-forth first set, Leskinen came out on top 7-6(2). In another close second set, Trkulja forced a tiebreaker at 6-6. Trkulja was leading the tiebreaker, 2-1, when the match was stopped.

"This was a huge win for the team, pulling out it when it counted," said Assistant Coach Paul Tobin. "We lost a tight doubles point, despite leading in all three matches, which was a little surprising after some good practices the last few days. We were still confident going into doubles. The rain delay created a few problems, but we made some good adjustments. Great job by everyone, but especially Leo clinching the point. Looking forward to playing tomorrow for the opportunity to go to Athens."

Please check back to GoPSUSports.com for more coverage of the Penn State men's tennis team. Updates are also available on our Facebook, Penn State Men's Tennis, and Twitter, @pennstateMTEN, pages.

Doubles:

1. Aita/Williams(UNCW) def. #26 Bader/Stakhovsky(PSU), 8-7(0).

2. Reilly/Young(PSU) vs. Mol/Pereira(UNCW), 7-6, unfinished.

3. Hublitz/Van der Burgh(UNCW) def. Barry/Trkulja(PSU), 8-6.

Order of Finish: 3,1

Singles:

1. #37 Leo Stakhovsky(PSU) def. #50 Rafael Aita(UNCW), 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

2. Russell Bader(PSU) def. Pedro Mol(UNCW), 6-2, 6-2.

3. Alex Fennell(PSU) def. Sam Williams(UNCW), 6-4, 6-1.

4. Matt Barry(PSU) def. Kaue Pereira(UNCW), 6-3, 6-1.

5. Roman Trkulja(PSU) vs. Santtu Leskinen(UNCW), 6-7(2), 6-6(2-1), unfinished.

6. Christian Van der Burgh(UNCW) def. Nika Dolidze(PSU), 6-4, 7-5.

Order of Finish: 2,4,3,6,1


 

 

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