Men’s Tennis: Tribe defeats Drexel to advance to CAA semifinals

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

William and Mary opened Colonial Athletic Association tournament action against Drexel Thursday, April 18. In this quarterfinal matchup hosted by Elon, the Dragons were looking to pick up their first ever win over the Tribe, having lost their previous four matches against the College. Meanwhile, the Tribe entered the tournament as the third seed in the CAA, despite a tough regular season where it posted a 3-15 record, losing its lone game in conference play against Elon. Nevertheless, the College did pick up each of its three victories this season in the last seven matches, after an 0-8 start to the season. Thursday, the Tribe (4-15, 1-1 CAA) knocked off the Dragons (11-10, 2-3 CAA) 4-3 in comeback fashion. The College was down 3-1 but won the final three singles matches to advance to the CAA semifinals.

In doubles, the College found itself in an early hole, losing the first match. The doubles pair of senior Tristan Bautil and freshman Oren Vasser fell 6-3 to Drexel’s No. 2 doubles team, Xandy Hammitt and Sanil Jagtiani. The other two doubles matches were much tighter. However, Drexel won the doubles match at No. 3 to lock up the doubles and put the Dragons on top, 1-0. Sophomore Finbar Talcott and freshman Daniel Pellerito took the match to a tiebreak, but they fell to Youssef Lahlou and Juan Sanchez 7-3 in the tiebreak. By securing the doubles point, the Dragons ensured that they would just have to claim three of the six singles matches to win the match. The No. 1 doubles match was tied 6-6 and headed to the tiebreak when the Dragons clinched the doubles point.

In singles, the Dragons got off to a fast start, looking to clinch the match and move into the CAA semifinals. They claimed the first set in each of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles matches. At No. 1, Sinan Orhon topped sophomore Sebastian Quiros in a close first set, 6-4. Lahlou bested Talcott at No. 2 by the same scoreline and at No. 3, Jagtiani routed junior Brenden Volk 6-1. The first player for the Tribe to take the first set in singles was Pellerito. He cruised to a 6-2 first set victory over Hammitt before dropping the second set to force a third and deciding set in the No. 6 matchup. The College also won tight first sets in singles matches at No. 4 and 5. Sophomore Chen Ruo and Vasser, respectively, each won in tiebreakers in the first set to keep the Tribe afloat.

The first singles match to end was the No. 6 matchup. Pellerito had won the first set, but he ultimately fell in a tight, three-set match. Hammitt was able to seize control during the third set and won the match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. With the Tribe trailing 2-0 overall, it needed to win four of the final five singles matches. Ruo finally got the College on the board with a straight-set win at the No. 5 spot in singles. However, the next match to finish, the No. 3 singles match, propelled the Dragons within one win of the moving on to the semifinals. Volk knotted his match at a set apiece, but Jagtiani won the third and decisive set, 6-4, to put the Dragons up 3-1 with three singles matches still to be decided.

Despite the Dragons still being solidly in control, the Tribe was able to mount a comeback. Vasser finished off his straight-set victory at No. 5 to pull the Tribe within one point, 3-2. The College still needed to win its matches at the first and second singles spots. Quiros and Talcott had each dropped the first set, but they both bounced back and won close second sets to force dramatic final sets to decide the quarterfinal match. Talcott’s match was tied 5-5 in the third set, before he reeled off the final two games to knot the match at three apiece. The final match to finish was the No. 1 singles match between Quiros and Orhon. Quiros was able to clinch a spot in the semifinals and a dramatic comeback win for the Tribe with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Orhon. That win gave the College a 4-3 victory overall.

The College will look to back up its thrilling 4-3 comeback win over the Dragons when it takes on Elon in the CAA semifinals. The Phoenix, who are hosting the CAA tournament, defended their No. 2 seed by sweeping Hofstra 4-0 in the quarterfinals. The Tribe and the Phoenix met in the regular season, with the Phoenix winning 6-1. Friday, the College will look to avenge that loss and move into the CAA championship.