The Valparaiso University men’s tennis team was thrown right into the fire in its first ever Summit League match on Saturday afternoon at Match Point Tennis Club in Griffith, Ind. The Crusaders competed in a tightly-contested showdown with four-time defending league champion Denver, but the Pioneers prevailed 4-3 with the doubles point proving pivotal.
How It Happened
- A match between a pair of teams that reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago lived up to the hype, and the tone was set early during doubles competition. With the other two courts split, the doubles point depended upon the match at No. 1 between Valpo’s Chad Kissell (Latrobe, Pa. / Greater Latrobe) and Kweisi Kenyatte (Detroit, Mich. / East English Village Preparatory) and Denver’s Matt Summers and Jesse Ruder-Hook. The Crusader duo came back to force a 6-6 deadlock and cause a tiebreaker, sending the doubles session about as far as it could go. The Pioneer pair eventually pulled away to win the tiebreaker 7-1.
- That doubles point ended up making all the difference, as each team won three singles matches.
- The Crusaders were victorious at No. 3 doubles, where Daniel Langston (Ponca City, Okla. / Ponca City) and Garrett Gardner (Poland, Ohio / Poland) defeated Sean Huynh and Eric Morris 6-4. On the No. 2 doubles court, the visiting duo of Jorge Nunez and Mattia Ros got the better of Brandon Ancona (Belvidere, Ill. / Rockford Christian) and Gabriel Carvajal (Pembroke Pines, Fla. / Broward Virtual School [Florida Atlantic]) 6-3.
- Valpo (0-1) won singles matches at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4. The most dramatic showdown was the last to finish, as Carvajal nipped Nunez 4-6, 6-4, 12-10 as the two played a third set tiebreak since the Pioneers (2-0) had already clinched the team win. Carvajal bounced back after dropping the first set to gain the hard-fought triumph in his first dual match in a Valpo uniform.
- On the topic of winning a dual match debut, enter Kenyatte, who topped Summers in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2. Kissell enjoyed a convincing win at the top singles spot, besting Ros 6-1, 6-4.
- The closest Denver win in singles was at No. 2, where Morris defeated Ancona 6-4, 7-5. Gardner (6-0, 6-2) and Brian Pecyna (6-2, 6-2) dropped their matches at No. 5 and 6, respectively.
Inside the Match
- Gardner’s doubles win was the 60th of his career, which ranks sixth in program history. He now owns eight doubles victories on the year, while Langston has six this year and 15 for his career.
- Kenyatte bumped his season record to 10-2 in singles competition, while Carvajal moved up to 8-3 in his first Crusader campaign.
- Kissell is up to 56 career singles wins, a number that ranks 10th in program history. He’s 8-3 thus far in the 2017-18 season.
Thoughts from Head Coach Jim Daugherty
“I think both teams knew going into this one that the doubles point was crucial. It could have gone either way, and that makes this loss difficult. However, I was really proud of the way the guys battled back hard and got themselves back in the match. Denver is a very intense, competitive group of players. I give them a lot of credit. We know we can play better. We didn’t play badly, but we need to clean up a few things. We learned a lot during today’s match, and I think we’re in position to have a solid season.”
The Crusaders will face another quality opponent as they hit the road for the first time this spring for a date with Marquette on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. CT in Milwaukee.