Bulls Rally Past Ball State, Into MAC Title Match
TOLEDO, OH – Trailing 3-1 with three matches still to be decided, the University at Buffalo men's tennis made a furious run to clinch the final matches and move into Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championship match with a 4-3 win over Ball State. The Bulls (11-9) will meet Western Michigan in the conference final with the NCAA's automatic berth on the line.
Vusa Hove clinched the final point with his three-set victory over Dalton Albertin, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. For Hove, it was his 12th consecutive singles victory and Hove's second time of putting the Bulls into the championship match in his career. As a freshman in 2010, Hove scored the clinching point in UB's semifinal win over Toledo.
With the Bulls trailing 3-1, Wojciech Starakiewicz and Ivan Vereshchaga were instrumental in keeping the ball rolling. Starakiewicz, the reigning MAC Player of the Week and two-time first-team All-MAC honoree, defeated Zane Smith, 6-4, 6-4, to inch the Bulls closer while Vereshchaga came back from a straight-sets loss to Austin Smith in last weekend's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals to defeat Smith in three-sets on Friday, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Senior Alex Kalinin, a two-time All-MAC Tournament selection, gave UB its first point when he scored a straight-sets win over Patrick Elliott, 7-5, 6-3.
The Bulls dropped the doubles point, the third time in their last three MAC semifinal appearances although they picked up a 9-7 tiebreaker win from Vereshchaga and Kalinin in the number three match over Patrick Elliott and Andres Monroy. Damien David and Travis Zappia held their own in the number two match against Zane Smith and Derek Carpenter but fell to the BSU duo in a tiebreaker, 7-5.
Head coach Lee Nickell commented on his team's ability to come back from the deficit following the match. "This match was an unbelievable effort from both teams. Credit to Ball State, they really brought their best today."
Nickell continued, "I am so proud of our guys, the effort they put in and their will to win. This is a match that earlier this year we would have lost, so hopefully this is a sign that we are playing our best tennis as we go into the finals tomorrow."
This will be UB's second appearance in the league finals in the past three seasons. The Bulls fell to Western Michigan in the 2010 title tilt.
UB defeated both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois by 5-2 decisions during the regular season. UB and NIU shared the league's regular season title with 4-1 records but the Bulls gained the top seed in the tournament thanks to their victory over the Huskies on April 15.
First serve for the MAC Championship match at Toledo's Varsity Tennis Courts is slated for 1:00 pm on Saturday.
1-Buffalo 4, 4-Ball State 3
1. Dalton Albertin/Ray Leonard (BSU) def. Wojciech Starakiewicz/Vusa Hove (UB), 8-2
2. Zane Smith/Derek Carpenter (BSU) def. Damien David/Travis Zappia (UB), 9-8 (5)
3. Ivan Vereshchaga/Alex Kalinin (UB) def. Patrick Elliott/Andres Monroy (BSU), 8-7 (7)
Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2
1. Ray Leonard (BSU) def. Damien David (UB), 2-6, 6-0, 6-0
2. Vusa Hove (UB) def. Dalton Albertin (BSU), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4
3. Wojciech Starakiewicz (UB) def. Zane Smith (BSU), 6-4, 6-4
4. Ivan Vereshchaga (UB) def. Austin Smith (BSU), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
5. Alex Kalinin (UB) def. Patrick Elliott (BSU), 7-5, 6-3
6. Alexandre Brym (BSU) def. Jason Shkodnik (UB), 6-3, 6-3
Order of Finish: 1, 5, 6, 3, 4, 2