It was by no means easy, but the Valparaiso University men’s tennis team is headed back to the Horizon League Championship match for the third consecutive season. The Crusaders started the league tournament by edging out Youngstown State 4-3 in a heart-pounding Saturday semifinal at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Now, Valpo finds itself one win removed from securing a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Kyle Dunn (Fond du Lac, Wis. / Fond du Lac) was the hero, winning his match with all other courts finished to help the Crusaders stave off a significant upset bid.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (21-3) got off to a good start by taking the doubles point from the Penguins (19-8). Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind. / Carmel) and Chad Kissell (Latrobe, Pa. / Greater Latrobe) secured a win at No. 2 doubles in the first match to finish, beating Danylo Veremeichuk and Joao Garretto 6-3 at No. 2.
- Dunn and Garrett Gardner (Poland, Ohio / Poland) bested Yossi Dahan and Matthew Kritzinger 6-3 at No. 3 doubles to latch down the doubles point.
- Jeffrey Schorsch (Perrysburg, Ohio / Perrysburg) and Dave Bacalla (Skokie, Ill. / Niles North) played a back-and-forth match with Mitch Maroscher and Thomas Rodrigues at No. 1. The Crusaders trailed in the match 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5, but came back to win the following game on each occasion. The No. 1 doubles match was headed to a tiebreak at 6-6, but went unfinished as No. 3 doubles wrapped up to allow Valpo to nail down the doubles point.
- Rodrigues got the best of Emhardt 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3 singles in the first match to finish, allowing the Penguins to level the match at 1-1.
- Veremeichuk defeated Kissell 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, permitting the Penguins to gain a 2-1 edge in the match.
- Schorsch got past Maroscher at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-3. After Maroscher got the break to make it 4-4 in Set 1, Schorsch broke right back to give himself a chance to serve for the set. He did so successfully, winning the opening set 6-4 by taking the last two games. His 6-3 win in the second set made him the first singles winner for the Crusaders, working the match back to even at 2-2.
- Garretto topped Bacalla 7-6, 6-3 at No. 4 singles, giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead in the match and putting the Crusaders in a position where they were required to win both No. 5 and No. 6 singles to dodge a massive upset.
- Brandon Ancona (Belvidere, Ill. / Rockford Christian) earned a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Dahan at No. 6. Leading 4-3, Ancona rallied from down 0-30 to win an important game, making it 5-3, but Dahan fended off two match points to win a point at deuce, taking the game to make it 5-4, then he got the break to draw even at 5-5. Ancona followed by breaking Dahan’s serve to go up 6-5 and set up another chance to serve for the match. Ancona reached his third match point at deuce and this time secured the straight sets win.
- With every other court finished, all eyes turned to No. 5 singles. Dunn prevailed against Luke Purser 7-6, 6-3. Dunn clinched the win with an ace on match point.
Inside the Match
- The Crusaders secured their 22nd win of the season, matching the program record set a year ago. They’ve got a chance to go where no Valpo team has gone before by nailing down win No. 23 on Sunday.
- Schorsch picked up his program-record 110th career singles victory while racking up his 26th win of the season. Schorsch is still three wins away from matching his single-season program record of 29 set in 2015-16.
- Dunn also boosted his season win total to 26, as he remains tied with Schorsch for the team lead. The 26 single-season wins rank tied for fifth in program history. Dunn has rapped off six straight singles wins, the team’s longest active winning streak.
- Schorsch is now 20-1 in the spring season. All 20 of his dual match victories have come in straight sets.
- The doubles win was Emhardt’s 27th of the season. He’s now one behind Schorsch for the team lead. The program record set by Schorsch and Emhardt in 2014-15 is 30. Emhardt extended his program record with his 113th career doubles triumph.
- Emhardt and Kissell remain unbeaten when playing together as they move to 8-0 as a doubles combo.
- Dunn and Gardner remain undefeated against Horizon League opponents this season. They went 5-0 as a combo in league doubles matches during the regular season. They are 16-4 overall and 11-2 in dual competition.
- The Crusaders are 16-0 against Horizon League opponents (including league tournament matches) over the last two seasons.
- This match was much closer than the regular season meeting between Valpo and Youngstown State on March 25, when the Crusaders prevailed 7-0.
The Crusaders will play the winner of Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State for the Horizon League title and the right to advance to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CT at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. The match will be broadcast on ESPN3 with Neal Ruhl providing play-by-play. Links to live video will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.