The most successful men's tennis season in more than a decade came to a close on Friday morning as Valparaiso dropped a 4-2 decision to Western Illinois in the semifinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament held in Macomb, Ill.
Valpo, the tournament's second seed, defeated the Leathernecks 4-3 during regular season play, but fell victim to singles action on Friday.
The Crusaders opened strong, winning the doubles point, something the Brown and Gold did not do in the first meeting between the two schools. Western Illinois won at second doubles as Justin Junck and Neil Lesinski defeated Mike Wagner (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer H.S.) and Dave Bukowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Prospect H.S.) 8-5. Valpo's Nic Kooyers (Holland, Mich./Holland H.S.) and Joe Venegas (Saint Charles, Ill./North H.S.) answered with a win by the same score at the top of the lineup over Martin Bostrom and Sean Ragee-Nelson. Mike Shideler (Valparaiso, Ind./Munster H.S.) and Alex Lau (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson Senior H.S.) sewed up the point for the Crusaders with their 8-6 triumph over Mike Tiu and Josh Wittenberg at third doubles.
Western Illinois quickly tied the match at one as Tiu defeated Lau in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 at the bottom of the singles order. Ragee-Nelson put the Leathernecks in front with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 triumph over Bukowski at fifth singles, but Venegas retied the match at two. The junior rallied from a set down to post a 0-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Junck at the second spot. Sisay Selassie gave did the same for third seed, coming back from a set down for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory over Wagner. Lesinski clinched the victory for the Leathernecks narrowly edging Shideler in a pair of tie-breakers 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) at fourth singles. The first singles match was stopped with Bostrom leading Kooyers 6-4, 4-6, 5-2.
Valparaiso sees its season come to a close with an 11-10 record, including a 5-1 mark in Mid-Con play to finish second in the regular season. Western Illinois (13-7) advances to Saturday's title match against the winner of Friday afternoon's match between Oral Roberts and UMKC.