The Oglethorpe men's tennis team picked up its biggest victory of the season Saturday morning at the Downing Howell Courts, knocking off the 34th-ranked Sewanee Tigers and handing them their first-ever SAA loss in the 4-year history of the conference. The win vaulted the Stormy Petrels into a 3-way tie for first place in the league at 5-1, joining Sewanee and Birmingham-Southern. With the win, Oglethorpe improved their overall record to 12-5.
The Petrels clinched the match when senior C.J. Antonio, the 23rd-ranked player in the nation, knocked off No. 39 Avery Schober, who also came in as the second-ranked player in the Atlantic South in the more recent regional rankings. It was a tight match for the first two sets, with Antonio taking the first 7-5 and Schober grabbing the second 6-4. Antonio came out on fire in the third set, though, running out to a 6-1 win for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 victory to secure the Oglethorpe win in the dual match.
The dual match began very well for the Petrels, as they picked up two of the three doubles contests. They got a huge win at No. 1 doubles, as the regionally-ranked duo of Antonio and sophomore Rhys Richardson knocked off the No. 2 doubles team in the nation, Sewanee's Eric Roddy and Jack Gray, 8-5. Roddy and Gray also currently sit as the top-ranked doubles team in the region.
That got Oglethorpe off to a big start, and they continued the momentum from that with a 9-7 win from freshmen Angel Llerena and Richard Johnson at No. 3 doubles. The Tigers picked up the No. 2 match from senior Briton Richardson and freshman Michael Allen, 8-4, to make it 2-1 headed into singles, but the Petrels had an early advantage.
That advantage expanded with a couple of big wins to begin singles. Briton Richardson took his No. 5 match in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0, while his brother Rhys played just as well at No. 3, winning 6-0, 6-3 and giving Oglethorpe a 4-1 lead in the dual match.
The Tigers came back with a couple of victories of their own, as Roddy, the ninth-ranked singles player in the Atlantic South, defeated sophomore Judd Motz 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Meanwhile, freshman Michael Santaloci fell 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6. That put the Petrels up 4-3 headed into the final two matches, both of which went three sets. Antonio clinched the match at No. 1 while Llerena fell 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 for the final 5-4 scoreline.
"This was a fantastic victory for us!" said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "It was a great team effort and I'm very proud of our guys. C.J. and Rhys had perhaps our most impressive victory in any single match this season with a win against the top-ranked duo in the region. And C.J. was very impressive in the third set against a nationally-ranked opponent. I couldn't be happier with our group for this victory."
The Petrels will round out their regular season schedule Sunday when they take on Centre at the Howell Courts at approximately noon. The Petrels would secure at least a share of the SAA regular season title with a win. Senior Day festivities will take place before the match, as Antonio, Richardson and Matt Roberson will be honored for their careers with the Stormy Petrels.