ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Despite one of their strongest efforts of the season, the Cleveland State men's tennis team came up short in the Horizon League Championship match Sunday afternoon, falling to top-seeded Green Bay, 4-3. The Vikings finish the 2014 spring season with a 15-8 record.
"We gave away the doubles point today, which we got in the regular season. It felt like Green Bay played better doubles today and hit some big shots on all of the courts to really put some pressure on us," head coach Brian Etzkin said. "We didn't quite play as well as we did the first time around, but it was definitely an epic battle between two great teams. I don't expect anything less when it is Cleveland State vs. Green Bay in the championship match."
The Vikings got behind early in the championship match, as Green Bay was able to pick up the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. CSU's No. 2 team of Matt Kuelker and Nolan Marks were giving the Vikings a chance at 7-5, before their match was suspended.
Manuel Bellutti quickly evened the score for the Vikings with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 5 singles, posting his 10th straight win of the season. Bellutti wrapped up the regular season with a 25-9 overall singles record.
Green Bay then jumped out to a 3-1 advantage with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, putting the pressure on the Vikings to pick up three straight singles points. Marks started the Viking comeback with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) victory at No. 6 singles, avenging a loss to the same opponent that he faced during the regular season.
Joe VanMeter quickly followed Marks in the win column, earning a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory at No. 4 singles. VanMeter, who battled throughout his entire match, posted his team-best 16th straight singles win, and finished the season with a 22-11 singles record.
"At the midway point of singles play I thought the title was in our grasp. Nolan got us a point that we didn't get last time, and Joe came away with a huge three-set win on his court. Both of these came after Manuel got us on the board and started us off with a relatively easy singles win. Being down 3-1 is a hard, hard thing to bounce back from, but I thought we were right there until the very end today when we just couldn't close it out," Etzkin said.
The final match on the courts as at No. 3 singles, as Cleveland State's Jorg van der Vloet and Green Bay's Howard Scott were tied at a set a-piece. Despite a strong effort from van der Vloet, Scott was able to bounce back from a third set deficit, earning a 7-5 third-set win, on the way to clinching the match for the Phoenix.
"Green Bay gets all of the credit for the win, they were the better team today and I wish them the best of luck in the NCAA Tournament. It is a long way off, but hopefully we can match up with them again next year in the championship match and put on another great show of collegiate tennis,"
"I am so proud of the two seniors, Matt Ford and Matt Kuelker, and what they have given to the Cleveland State program over their careers. Matt Ford has been our emotional leader this year, and he has definitely helped us win from the sidelines throughout the year. Matt Kuelker will go down as one of the best players in program history, and even though this isn't the way he would have liked to go out, it has certainly been a pleasure coaching him for the past four years," Etzkin said.
Green Bay 4, Cleveland State 3
- Tenzer/Scott (GB) def. Shabib/VanMeter (CSU), 8-4
- Kuelker/Marks (CSU) vs. Tebon/Leto (GB), 7-5, unfinished
- Isaaks/Islinger (GB) def. Bellutti/van der Vloet (CSU), 8-3
- Michael Tenzer (GB) def. Matt Kuelker (CSU), 6-2, 6-3
- Leo Gomez Islinger (GB) def. Ali Shabib (CSU), 6-3, 1-6, 6-4
- Howard Scott (GB) def. Jorg van der Vloet (CSU), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5
- Joe VanMeter (CSU) def. Joey Leto (GB), 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5)
- Manuel Bellutti (CSU) def. Rowan Isaaks (GB), 6-2, 6-2
- Nolan Marks (CSU) def. Jorge Gonzalez Soler (GB), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3)