Men’s Tennis: Tribe conquers last year’s CAA foe in its first outdoors game

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Courtesy Image / Tribe Athletics

Sunday, Mar.1, William and Mary (7-1, 2-0 CAA) met Elon (3-7, 0-1 CAA) for the first outdoor match of the season in the Millie West Tennis Facility. The last time the teams faced each other, it was in the Colonial Athletic Association conference championships. The Phoenix narrowly knocked out the Tribe in a hard-fought singles match after conceding the doubles point.  Today, it was a sunny day, just over 50 degrees, and the Tribe was hopeful to reverse the outcome outdoors.  It pulled through from help from the bottom pairings in both matches, and won in a 5-2 victory.

“It was tough to come outside for our first match, especially in the beginning of March, but we did our best to embrace the new conditions and focus on who our opponent was,” sophomore Daniel Pellerito admitted. “Just being outside is a little bit of a different game, but I think we did well adjusting to it.”

Doubles got off to a quick start. On court two, sophomore Joseph Brailovsky and junior Chen Ruo took a lead, but they refused to let the momentum get away from them. In the fourth game, Brailovsky dodged forward into the serve box to spike a ball past the Phoenix. When the Phoenix pair ran off the court to return it, Brailovsky followed through with another spike to send the game home, 3-1. The teamwork extended throughout the match: Brailovsky running up to catch the Phoenix off-guard with a spike or a dribbler and Ruo staying back to defend against returns. They only gave up three games, all of which were battles to break a deuce, and they won the match 6-3.

Freshman George Davis and senior Brendon Volk battled on the first line with Phoenix Kyle Frankel and Nicholas Condos. Volk served the only two games the pair won. Many of his serves were aces, but he relied on Davis to finish the point when the Phoenix managed to get their rackets on the ball. The tandem work and positioning allowed the Tribe to capitalize on Volk’s serves, but they got separated in the other games. In long volleys, Volk and Davis defended the angles but got split down the middle to lose points. They dropped the set with a final score of 3-6.

The doubles point depended on the third pair of Pellerito and junior Finbar Talcott. The Tribe took a 3-2 lead to begin, and the match stayed close the entire time. A long volley off Talcott’s serve bounced the wrong way, landing slightly out-of-bounds, and rocking the Tribe’s momentum. The Phoenix went on a 3-1 game run to lead the set 5-4. Breaking a deuce to prevent the set point, the Tribe tied the score at five. Pellerito and Talcott fought back and perfected their trajectories, allowing them to steal the set 7-5. The Tribe clinched the doubles point for the eighth-straight time.

“They knocked us out of the conference championships last season, so we definitely came into this match with a chip on our shoulders, ready to get our revenge,” Volk said. “We’ve been doing a great job as a team, and we treated them just like any other opponent.”

In singles, Davis played the fifth court. He gave up only two games in his entire match, and finished almost an hour before the rest of his teammates, winning both sets 6-1. And that’s all there really is to say: Davis was dominant.

Brailovsky and Phoenix Kyle Frankel played almost a perfect game of long volleys. Both anticipated cross-court and same-side shots and hit the ball in deep. After taking a quick 1-0 lead, Brailovsky took a serve box risk. When Frankel returned the spike over Brailovsky’s head, the momentum shifted. Frankel took a 4-game run, and Brailovsky couldn’t dig back. He lost the first set 4-6 and the second 1-6.

Talcott battled hard on the second court but couldn’t get a call to go his way. His serves were hard and fast, difficult to counter effectively. Phoenix Nicholas Condos had quick returns in long volleys, but Talcott used his good eye to hustle back or let it drop out of bounds. He won the first set 6-2, but then Condos regained momentum on disputed line calls, both in serves and on bounds. He dropped the next set 3-6, and didn’t recover. The final game of the third set went to a deuce which was broken by a call reversal, causing Talcott to lose 3-6.

Court four had only two sets, but they lasted almost as long as the matches with three. Volk won the first set in a 7-6 tiebreak after leading from a 5-2 margin. His steep angles certainly helped tire and trip up his Phoenix opponent, but the low ball trajectory often got lodged in the net, costing him several games in the first set. The second set got off to a tight fight; the fourth pair traded games until the match point, where Volk won 6-4.

Next door, Pellerito took on Phoenix Sam Dively in the sixth spot. Long volleys and close games forced Pellerito to hustle in order to catch Dively on the wrong side of a cross-court shot. He won the first set 6-4 but dropped the next 3-6. In the third set, he figured out Dively’s weakness and countered the attempted serve-box spikes nicely. With a 3-0 lead going into the fourth game, Pellerito had seemingly regained his first-set energy.

“The best overall setting was in both my third set and right when I heard B win, because that was a loud, loud ‘Come On!’” Pellerito reflected on his favorite plays from the match. “I really think that shifted momentum.”

He took the next game in a 40-0 blitz, and ultimately won the set 6-1. His victory clinched the Tribe’s win.

“It was good to be the last one on, to clinch the match for us this year. I was the last one who lost last year to lose it for the CAA team,” Pellerito said. “It was good to have a little bit of a role reversal, and just take the W this time.”

Junior Sebastian Quiros fought back from a 4-6 set loss on court three to win his match as well. He over-anticipated the ball in the first, but quickly found his rhythm, picking up the second set 6-4. In the third, he served long, giving him time to run into the serve box and counter returns. That strategy was effective against Phoenix Camilo Ponce. Quiros ran through the last set and won 6-1.  With four single wins, the Tribe took the Sunday match 5-2. “I’m very glad we got the job done,” said Volk.

Next weekend, Mar. 7, the Tribe travels up to Penn, beginning a three-weekend road trip. The Tribe has won its last three and looks to continue its win streak. There will however, be a shift in mind-set; the beautiful Sunday afternoon the Tribe enjoyed today will not mirror conditions up north.

“It’s a little colder up there, so we’re going to go back to indoor tennis mentality. Other than that, nothing else really changes, just get to work every day and treat every opponent the same, embrace the opportunities,” Volk said about the upcoming road trip. “It’s less about external conditions, like battling the sun, the cold, the wind and it’s more just play the game, get the job done.”