VALPARAISO, Ind. – The Cleveland State tennis team finished regular season play on a high note Saturday afternoon, clinching the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament with a 5-2 victory at Valparaiso. The Vikings finish the regular season with a 14-7 overall record and a 5-1 mark in league contests.
"This was another good Horizon League tennis match, coming in we knew it was an important match for us and we were able to keep our heads down and battle for the victory," head coach Brian Etzkin said. "The doubles matches were highly contested, and after faltering at the No. 2 spot, we were able to come back at No. 1 and No. 3, closing out those matches and getting the early point."
Behind balanced doubles play, the Vikings were able to gain the early 1-0 advantage, picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. Ali Shabib and Joe VanMeter earned an 8-6 victory at the top of the lineup, while Jorg van der Vloet and Manuel Bellutti posted a matching 8-6 win at the No. 3 spot.
The Crusaders then picked up two quick points with wins at No. 2 and No. 6 singles, before Matt Kuelker was able to even the score at 2-2 with a 6-2, 7-5 victory at the top of the lineup. Kuelker finished the regular season with an 18-3 record this spring, and has won 15 of his last 16 matches.
van der Vloet was then able to give CSU a 3-2 advantage with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 three-set victory at No. 3 singles, before Bellutti clinched the match with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win at the No. 5 spot. Bellutti has now won eight straight matches, and finished the regular season with a perfect 6-0 mark in league singles play.
"We didn't flinch after dropping the first two singles matches, we kept our focus and played solid tennis on the other four courts. Matt Kuelker had a good win for us at the top of the lineup, and Jorg played some great tennis on his court, firing the rest of the team up with his strong play. It was good to see Manuel get tested a bit today and see him close out a strong third set for his victory. Joe then added one of for good measure, closing out a three-set match – one of three three-set matches that we won today," Etzkin said.
Cleveland State's final point came from VanMeter, who posted a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1 victory at No. 4 singles. With the win, VanMeter extended his win streak to 14 straight matches, and became the third Viking to reach 20 wins this season, owning a 20-11 mark. Along with Bellutti, VanMeter also finished with a perfect 6-0 mark in league singles play.
"After picking up this win today, we guaranteed ourselves a top-two seed in the upcoming tournament, and a bye into the semifinals which makes things a lot easier for us. We had a strong regular season, and we put ourselves in a good position heading into the tournament," Etzkin said.
The Vikings will now prepare for the Horizon League Tournament (April 25 – 27), which will be hosted by the University of Michigan. After finishing the regular season ranked second, the Vikings earned a bye into the semifinals of the tournament, and will begin play on Saturday, April 26.
Cleveland State 5, Valparaiso 2
- Ali Shabib/Joe VanMeter (CSU) def. Dave Bacalla/Daniel Oakes (VALPO), 8-6
- Jeffrey Schorsch/Charlie Emhardt (VALPO) def. Matt Kuelker/Nolan Marks (CSU), 8-5
- Jorg van der Vloet/Manuel Bellutti (CSU) def. Eric Honert/Kyle Dunn (VALPO), 8-6
- Matt Kuelker (CSU) def. Jeffrey Schorsch (VALPO), 6-2, 7-5
- Dave Bacalla (VALPO) def. Ali Shabib (CSU), 6-2, 6-2
- Jorg van der Vloet (CSU) def. Eric Honert (VALPO), 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
- Joe VanMeter (CSU) def. Michael Savaglio (VALPO), 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1
- Manuel Bellutti (CSU) def. Charlie Emhardt (VALPO), 7-5, 3-6, 6-2
- Kyle Dunn (VALPO) def. Nolan Marks (CSU), 6-3, 6-3