The 38th-ranked Oglethorpe men's tennis team advanced through the SAA Tournament quarterfinals in a workmanlike manner Friday afternoon, defeating seventh-seeded Centre 8-1 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to advance to the semifinals of the tournament against third-seeded SAA co-champions Birmingham-Southern. The victory improved the Stormy Petrels to 14-5 on the season.
The Petrels jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after the doubles portion of the afternoon at the Adams Tennis Complex at Old Fort Park. The top doubles team of senior C.J. Antonio and sophomore Rhys Richardson made relatively quick work of their opponents, winning 8-3. Meanwhile, senior Briton Richardson and freshman Michael Allen did the same at the No. 2 doubles slot, while the third duo of freshmen Angel Llerena and Richard Johnson swept their Colonel opponents 8-0. That gave the Petrels a 3-0 advantage headed into singles play.
Freshman Michael Santaloci played an excellent match at No. 6 to start singles, winning 6-1, 6-0, while Briton Richardson followed with the match-clincher at No. 5, winning 6-1, 6-2 to give the Petrels a 5-0 advantage. After that, national No. 23 Antonio came in with a clean sweep at the No. 1 position, winning 6-0, 6-0. Meanwhile, sophomore Judd Motz took out his opponent in a competitive 2-set match, winning 6-4, 6-3.
The final two matches went to 10-point tiebreakers in lieu of third sets after the dual match had already been decided. Rhys Richardson found himself locked in a tight battle, falling in a first-set tiebreaker, but he came back to win two straight sets for the win, 6-7 (6), 6-2, 1-0 (3). Llerena suffered the lone loss on the afternoon for Oglethorpe. He came back from a first-set defeat to force a 10-point tiebreaker, but eventually lost 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (3).
"I thought the guys came out and really took care of business today," said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "We had some concern of looking past this to tomorrow's big matchup with Birmingham-Southern, but there was no sign of that. We'll now get set for that match as we look to make our first-ever SAA Tournament finals."
The Petrels will take on the Panthers at 1 p.m. Eastern from Murfreesboro, weather permitting. Forecast rain would push the match to the complex's indoor courts, which could delay the match until mid-afternoon.
If the Petrels get through Birmingham-Southern, they'll advance to their first-ever SAA finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.