Championship banners were unfurled, seniors were commemorated and the tennis program was celebrated at William and Mary Sunday. Even with the considerable amount of fanfare, the Tribe (18-9, 4-0 CAA) saved most of its fireworks for the court, as it battled past DePaul 4-3 in the morning session and dismantled Liberty 5-2 in the afternoon.
Senior Keziel Juneau pulled out a victory over DePaul’s Alasdir Graetz to help the Tribe take down the Blue Demons, while freshman Jamie Whiteford led the way against Liberty with a 6-2, 6-0 victory in the two spot during the nightcap. The pair of wins give the College 18 wins this season, the team’s highest mark since 2000.
Head Coach Peter Daub attributed the victories, as well as the team’s consistent play this season, to the strong leadership shown by several of his seniors.
“I think that Keziel Juneau, who was also our captain last year, has just followed that same path this year; and I think at the same time, he has been a real leader for us,” Daub said. “He has demonstrated the ability to play well in the most dire of situations, and we had a couple yesterday. He has just stepped up and said, ‘I’m the man, give me the ball, and I’ll get it done.’ And he did.”
Juneau notched his 21st win of the season in dramatic fashion Saturday morning, overcoming a 2-1 deficit in the deciding third set. The senior battled back by winning five of the last six games to clinch a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Graetz.
Although Juneau narrowly fell to Liberty’s Siim Titus 6-3, 6-4 in the afternoon singles match, he and freshman doubles partner Anton Andersson won both of their Sunday doubles matches.
In addition to Juneau’s heroics, the College got an added boost in singles play from fellow senior Richard Wardell. Wardell won both his Sunday matches with relative ease, dispatching DePaul’s Mathias Hambach 6-1, 6-4 in the morning and Liberty’s Giancarlo Lemmi 6-4, 6-3 in the afternoon.
While the College celebrated its seniors Sunday, the day’s matches also displayed three of the Tribe’s talented freshmen: Whiteford, Andersson and Adrian Vodislav.
“I think Jamie, Anton and Adrian have all stepped up,” Daub said. “Yesterday, Anton was on the court for the deciding doubles match and did quite well. I think Jamie has played a little bit higher and has no doubt been a key factor. Adrian stepped in and won a big match for us in the second match yesterday. I don’t think it’s been one person, I think it has been all three who have stepped up.”
Whiteford, like Andersson, has been a consistently strong contributor to the Tribe’s doubles lineup, a fact he and his partner, junior Sebastien Vidal, underscored Sunday with a 8-6 victory over DePaul and a 8-2 triumph over Liberty. Vodislav also emerged victorious in his only Sunday showing, a 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Liberty’s Louis Steyn in singles play.
With its regular season now in the books, the College will turn its attention to Thursday’s CAA Championship in Norfolk, where the Tribe seeks its fourth conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. Although the Tribe is the No. 1 seed, Daub stressed that the College’s path to victory will not be easy, especially with possible matchups against conference powerhouses Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion looming.
“VCU is very good; and they should probably be the favored team since we are playing outside, and they have a lot of players who are going to stay out there forever on the baseline,” Daub said. “I also think the same about ODU. They are probably a better outdoor team than an indoor team, so we will definitely be in a position to fight and scrap and claw in order to try to get through this.”
Despite the tough road ahead, Daub and the College are looking to add another year to the championship banner commemorating past Tribe teams unveiled at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center Sunday.
“We play a difficult conference schedule with VCU and ODU, and for us to win it, we have only done that this year; and this is the first time we have been a number one seed in my tenure here,” Daub said. “This team has come together under great leadership, and they are focused to reach the goals we have set out for them.”