The four Valparaiso University men’s tennis seniors have been difference-makers from the moment they stepped foot on campus. The most successful class in program history worked its magic yet again on Sunday afternoon, serving as the driving force behind Valpo’s 4-3 comeback win over Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders appeared to be in dire straits, trailing the match 3-0 and needing wins on all four remaining courts to capture the victory. The good news for Valpo was that all four courts left in action featured Crusader seniors, who added to their ever-growing track record of success by pulling out the team win.
- The final match to finish was No. 5 singles, the only three-set affair of the day. Kyle Dunn had succumbed to Daniel Loebel 6-3 in Set 1, but he rebounded with a 7-6(7-5) win in Set 2, forcing a climactic third set. With every other court wrapped up, Dunn eked out a 6-4 win to send Valpo (4-1) to its third straight triumph.
- The second-to-last match to finish was at No. 4 singles, where Dave Bacalla (Skokie, Ill. / Niles North) thwarted a comeback try by Eric Olivarez. After a 6-3 win in Set 1, Bacalla captured a compelling second set 7-6(5).
- Valpo’s most comfortable victory came at No. 3 singles, where Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind. / Carmel) dispatched Matej Svjetlicic 6-3, 6-0.
- After the Crusaders fell behind 3-0 as a team, it was No. 1 singles player Jeffrey Schorsch (Perrysburg, Ohio / Perrysburg) who got Valpo on the board with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kennosuke Nouchi, who was fresh off the MAC Player of the Week distinction.
- The first two singles matches to finish both featured Bronco wins, with Matt Hamilton bettering Chad Kissell (Latrobe, Pa. / Greater Latrobe) 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2 and Jannik Opitz defeating Garrett Gardner (Poland, Ohio / Poland) 6-1, 6-3 at No. 6.
- Western Michigan won the doubles point as Hamilton and Optiz, the reigning MAC Doubles Team of the Week, topped Bacalla and Kissell 6-3, while Nouchi and Loebel upended No. 8 Emhardt and Schorsch 7-5. Billy Heckman and Nick Schnobel led Dunn and Gardner 5-4 in No. 3 doubles, which went unfinished.
Inside the Match
- The Crusaders have now had 4-3 decisions on three straight Sundays. They have notched back-to-back thrilling wins over William & Mary and Western Michigan.
- Valpo was able to overcome losing the doubles point to win a match for the first time since March 25, 2016, a 5-2 win over Xavier.
- Dunn’s win allowed him to corral his team-leading 12th victory of the season against five losses.
- Emhardt, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Week, advanced to 4-0 in singles dual play and 11-5 overall. He now owns 80 career wins.
- Schorsch bumped up his career singles win total to 95, a program record. He now stands at 11-6 this year and an unblemished 4-0 in dual matches.
- The Valpo-Western Michigan matchup has been a competitive one in recent years, with the Crusaders taking three of the last five meetings.
- The Broncos had a 27-match home winning streak going into this weekend, but have now dropped back-to-back home contests. Big Ten foe Michigan State snapped the streak with a 4-3 victory on Saturday, before the Crusaders handed the Broncos another home defeat on Sunday. Before this weekend, Western Michigan hadn’t lost at home since 2013-14.
- Western Michigan drops to 4-5 on the season, but Valpo was the first mid-major program to beat the Broncos this year.
- The match was a battle of defending conference champions, with both squads winning their respective leagues a year ago. Both teams were picked as the preseason favorites to repeat their conference titles this year.
The Crusaders have a busy day of tennis on Friday, Feb. 17 as Xavier and Eastern Illinois both visit the Courts of NWI. The match against Xavier will get going at noon, with the Eastern Illinois showdown slated to follow at 3:30 p.m.