The Oglethorpe men's tennis team split matches Tuesday down in Florida, losing a heart-breaker in the morning to Wabash, 5-4, before bouncing back with a 6-3 victory over Wheaton (Illinois) in the afternoon.
Despite coming out on the losing side, the morning contest with Wabash was probably the match of the year thus far. The singles matches were played first, and after the Stormy Petrels dropped No. 1 singles, sophomore Zoe Raymond picked up a 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 5 to even the match 1-1. Junior Michael Santaloci finished next, pulling out a 3-set win, 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-3) at No. 6. After dropping No. 2 singles, the score was even again at 2-2. Freshman Walker Benson put the Petrels back in front, 3-2, with a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 4. With only No. 3 singles still out there, all eyes turned to Court 7 at the USTA National Campus for the outcome. Junior Richard Johnson had won the first set, 6-4, but had dropped the second set, 6-2, forcing a third-set super breaker. Johnson had match point at 10-9, but Wabash's Jordan Greenwell was able to stay alive and battled back to win the super breaker, 12-10, which evened the match at 3-3.
The doubles portion of the match proved just as nerve-wracking. After dropping No. 1 doubles to fall behind 4-3, the Petrels' No. 2 tandem of Johnson and Benson won 8-4 to once again even the match, this time at 4-4, leaving the No. 3 doubles match as the decisive point. Raymond and Calvin Schneider fell behind 6-3, but battled back to tie it at 7-7. They had four break points to go up 8-7, but couldn't capitalize. Down 8-7, they were up 40-love to tie things up at 8-8, but once again couldn't take advantage, and fell in a 9-7 gut-wrencher, allowing Wabash to secure the hard-fought 5-4 win.
The Petrels didn't have much time to dwell on the loss, as they hit the courts again just a couple of hours later to take on Wheaton. The Petrels were able to win two of the three doubles matches to get off to a good start. They took four of the singles matches (senior Judd Motz at No. 2, Benson at No. 4, Raymond at No. 5 and Santaloci at No. 6) to pick up a 6-3 win.
Head Coach Peter Howell commented, "This morning's match with Wabash may have been one of the most exciting and dramatic matches we have had since probably 2010. It was just a great college tennis match. Both teams played really well. We had several opportunities, but just didn't take advantage. They made just a few more clutch plays than us, and that was the difference. Despite the heart-breaking loss this morning, I thought the men showed great resilience in coming back to defeat Wheaton this afternoon."
Having played their seventh match in the past five days, the Petrels now sit with a 5-3 overall record with one final match on their spring break trip. They will take on Oneonta Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. That match will take place at Oak Street Park in Kissimmee, Florida. After that, the Petrels will head home and get some much-needed time off before returning on Wednesday, March 14, against Covenant.