The 38th-ranked Oglethorpe men's tennis team saw their season come to an end Saturday afternoon in a difficult 5-3 loss to Birmingham-Southern in the SAA Tournament semifinals in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In a matchup between SAA regular season co-champions, the third-seeded Panthers defeated the second-seeded Stormy Petrels in all three doubles matches, setting up a difficult task for Oglethorpe in singles. The Petrels end their season with a 14-6 overall record.
The top doubles team of senior C.J. Antonio and sophomore Rhys Richardson fell to Birmingham-Southern's No. 1 doubles duo 8-4 while the No. 3 doubles team of freshmen Angel Llerena and Richard Johnson fell by the same score. The second doubles team of senior Briton Richardson and freshman Michael Allen led for much of their match. They held a 5-4 edge at one point, but the Panthers duo came back for an 8-5 win, setting up a 3-0 lead.
The Petrels fought hard in singles, needing to take five of the six singles matches. No. 23 Antonio took care of his regionally-ranked opponent 6-3, 6-0 in the top singles match while the Richardson brothers both won their matches. Rhys won 6-2, 6-0 at No. 4 while Briton took his No. 5 match 6-3, 6-2, tying the dual match 3-3. However, sophomore Judd Motz fell at the No. 2 match, 6-2, 6-2, and freshman Michael Santaloci dropped a tightly-contested match at No. 6, falling 6-2, 6-4, clinching the match for the Panthers, 5-3.
With bad weather in the area, the No. 3 singles match involving Llerena went unfinished.
"This was a difficult and abrupt end to our season," said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "Give Birmingham-Southern credit, they jumped on us in the doubles matches and built a commanding lead. Our guys fought hard, coming back to tie it briefly, but we just couldn't dig ourselves out of the hole."
"This doesn't take away from what we accomplished this season," Howell continued. "I'm very proud of what this team has accomplished this year, winning a conference regular season championship and 14 matches."
With Oglethorpe's season over, Antonio will now wait to see if he qualifies for the NCAA Division III Tennis Championships as an individual for the second consecutive season. He's currently ranked fourth in the Atlantic South region with the top eight singles players from each region qualifying. The individual tournament takes place in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in late May.