The Valpo men's tennis team is one step away from the NCAA Tournament thanks to a 4-1 win over Cleveland State in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship on Saturday afternoon.
Junior Lucas Waak (Manitowoc, Wis./Roncalli) and freshman Garrett Gardner (Poland, Ohio/Poland) raced out to a 6-2 triumph at No. 3 doubles versus Cleveland State's Joe VanMeter and Jorg van der Vloet.
Sophomores Jeffrey Schorsch (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) and Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) put the doubles point in Valpo's back pocket with a 6-4 victory over Ali Shabib/Nolan Marks at No. 1.
Schorsch and Emhardt quickly put the Brown and Gold ahead 3-0 following straight set wins in singles play.
Schorsch dispatched VanMeter 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. Just a few moments later, Emhardt took his No. 4 showdown with Shabib, 6-3, 6-3.
Cleveland State took the first set in the remainder of the four flights; however, the Vikings parlayed that into just one win.
Colton Buffington and Michael Savaglio (Kenosha, Wis./Mary D. Bradford) went back-and-forth before the Viking sophomore recorded a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win at No. 6.
Dave Bacalla (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) gutted out the all-important fourth and match-clinching point for the Crusaders at No. 2 singles. After dropping the opening set in a tiebreaker, the sophomore rallied back to take the second by a 6-2 count. Bacalla prevailed for a 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-4 triumph.
Gardner and Kyle Dunn (Fond du Lac, Wis./Fond du Lac) were both on the brink of victory at No. 3 and 5, respectively, before Bacalla's win brought the day to a close.
Gardner was ahead 2-6, 7-5, 5-4 against Manuel Bellutti while Dunn led Mirko Radosevic 4-6, 6-4, 5-2 at No. 5.
Valpo's 21st win of the season sets up a title tilt with Green Bay, the Horizon League regular season champions. The Phoenix blanked UIC, 4-0, in their semifinals match.
The championship match will be held Sunday morning at 12:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. CT at the Schwartz Tennis Center on the campus of Purdue University. The winner will clinch the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. ESPN3 will carry live video of the match. The link to the ESPN3 feed is up at ValpoAthletics.com.