Feb. 16, William and Mary (4-1) played its last home game against Liberty (5-3) before heading on a five-game road trip. After winning the doubles point, it dropped the match as a whole 4-3 after a contentious singles bout. This marks the third match the Flames have won after losing the doubles point and the second time the Flames have defeated the Tribe in as many years.
“It’s a very good team we played today,” senior Brenden Volk said. “Definitely tough to leave with a loss, but I was very proud of our group. Just very easy to keep motivated when everybody on your team’s doing exactly the same thing you’re doing.”
In doubles, Volk and his partner, freshman George Davis, finished off Flame tandem Nicaise Muamba and his partner on the first line. The Tribe dug itself into a two-game hole but ended up rallying for a 6-3 set. Muamba led off with powerful serves that Volk and Davis found hard to counter. However, once they got into a rhythm, Davis placed the ball to force the Flames into a difficult formation, allowing Volk to spike the ball to a win. Davis’s serves were not aces, but they caused enough mistakes to be devastating.
Junior Finbar Talcott and sophomore Daniel Pellerito were in a heated match in the third position, trading games back and forth up until the end when the Tribe finally won the tiebreak 7-6. Talcott’s speed forced the Flames to react too quickly and counter with their handles instead of their nets. Pellerito never stopped hustling when he was in back, saving many cross-court shots. Their match clinched the doubles point for the Tribe.
The No. 2 pair’s match also went to a tiebreak, but sophomore Joseph Brailovsky and junior Ruo Chen didn’t have to finish their grueling fight. The match ended at 6-6, heading into the deciding game.
“We were ready to go. After a good doubles point we had all the momentum, and we tried to carry that as much as we can into singles,” Volk said. “We were ready to go before the match started, and just tried to take it from there.”
Volk was one of two singles wins. He played the No. 4 spot against Flames Goncalo Ferreira. In his first set, he quickly took a 4-0 lead, and ultimately won 6-3. He attacked with torque and power, alternating between the two to keep Ferreira guessing. In the match point, he dropped a ball just over the net out of reach of his opponent and that dribbler sealed his second set 6-3.
Davis played No. 5 on the court next to his partner. His first set went to tiebreak, where a contentious call killed Davis’s momentum, and he lost the set 7-6. The Flames’ Rafael Marques Da Silva came into the next set with more energy before, and Davis couldn’t force him onto his back foot. All of his shots ended up being just slightly too short, and he dropped the second set in a 6-0 blitz.
“We had a good doubles point. I think our energy was really good, but I don’t know if that carried into singles as much as it could have,” Davis said. “I think we played well in singles. It was just really close, and it could have went either way.”
Once Davis dropped his set, the energy in the tennis center died. The next three matches culminated in hard, long losses.
“It’s important to stay positive throughout the whole match, keep supporting your teammates,” Volk said. “It’s the only way to get through these really tough matches.”
The Tribe might have stayed positive, but the Flames also came to cheer and drowned out the usually boisterous Tribe.
Sturgill and Pellerito finished their match third. Pellerito played from a deficit almost the entire match but fought hard and refused to go down easy. The first set ended in a 7-5 Tribe loss. Despite Pellerito’s high-speed playing style, Sturgill presented a spinning lob that proved hard to counter, and the Tribe lost 6-3.
Brailovsky also played a long match. He dropped both sets 6-3 to Muamba, but almost every game ended in a deuce break. Both number ones were powerful, so instead of countering with his usually precise placement and trajectories, Brailovsky tried to respond with more power. Muamba was able to overpower him and steal the singles point.
At that point in the match, the Tribe had two must-win games on the court. Both already had one win under their belts, at least one of which went to 11 games.
Talcott relied on his fast serves to force lots of mistakes. He refused to enter the serve box for an easy spike. His wild spins gave him quick points, but he faltered in longer volleys. He won his first set in a tiebreak 7-6 win but dropped the next two 6-3 and 6-4. This loss sealed the Tribe’s defeat.
Quiros played on even though it was clear the Tribe had fallen. He won his first set 6-2 and maintained a two-game lead for most of the second set, even though he eventually lost 5-7. He used his entire body to return the ball, and he didn’t let close line calls get in his head. He rallied for a 7-5 win, outlasting his opponent.
“I think we’ve been playing really well at home,” Davis said. “I think we even played well today, just a few points here and there that decided it.”
The Tribe will travel for the first time this season to New Haven, Connecticut and face Yale Feb. 21. Yale goes into the game with the Tribe on a 3-game loss streak.
“Just got to take it one match at a time,” Volk said. “We’ve been doing very well as a team, and I have confidence in our group to rebound from this loss.”