The Valparaiso University men’s tennis team saw its quest for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth come up one win short with a 4-1 loss to Drake on Saturday afternoon at Gates Tennis Center in Denver, Colo. The match was closer than the final score would indicate as the two singles matches that went unfinished and the final matchup to reach completion were all tightly contested. The Crusaders (9-11) gave the Summit League regular season champion Bulldogs all they could handle in a well-played championship match.
How It Happened
- Drake (18-13) claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3, while the top doubles match went unfinished.
- Kweisi Kenyatte (Detroit, Mich. / East English Village Preparatory) was on the wrong end of a 6-2, 6-0 score against Vinny Gillespie at No. 2, allowing Drake to build the lead to 2-0. Tom Hands then put the Bulldogs on the verge of an NCAA berth with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Brandon Ancona (Belvidere, Ill. / Rockford Christian) at No. 3.
- However, Chad Kissell (Latrobe, Pa. / Greater Latrobe) got the Crusaders on the board by nailing down a 6-3, 6-1 win at first singles against Barry Thornold. With the Crusaders trailing 3-1, the door was open as Valpo was leading or close on all three remaining courts.
- For the second straight Valpo match, the clincher came at No. 6. This time, Finley Hall nipped Daniel Langston (Ponca City, Okla. / Ponca City) 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, sending the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament.
Inside The Match
- This marks the fourth straight season Valpo reached the league championship match – three times in the Horizon League and now once in the Summit League.
- Gardner finished his accomplished career with 74 singles wins. He ranks fifth in program history in both career singles and doubles (67) triumphs.
- Kissell, only a junior, gained his 65th career singles win and owns 61 career doubles wins. He is eighth in program history in singles and seventh in doubles.
- Kissell turned a straight-set loss to Thornold on April 14 into a straight-set victory on Saturday.
- Kenyatte finished as the team leader in singles wins with 20, while Kissell and Ancona shared the team lead in doubles wins with 19 apiece.
- Although Gardner, who has been a staple on successful Valpo teams each of the last four seasons, will walk across the stage at next month’s graduation, the Crusaders will bring back the rest of their roster for the 2018-2019 season.