Podium finish at Pacific Valley

 Mitch Johnson (left) catches his breath during doubles action during the Battle of the Bay tournament in 2019. Dons Athletics/Flickr

James Salazar 

Staff Writer

The USF men’s tennis team left Fresno, California with a third place finish at the Pacific Valley Tennis Championships. The three-day tournament featured eight schools from across the country battling for the tournament’s top spot.

In their first match, USF faced the University of Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warriors. Phuc Huynh secured the Dons’ first win of the day with a straight-set win over the Rainbow Warriors’ Simão Telo Alves (6-2, 6-2). Ori Maior stifled a first set comeback and downed Blaz Seric by a score of 6-4, 6-2.

Johan Garpered was the first Don to falter in tournament play as he was bested by the Rainbow Warriors’ Tristan Martins in straight sets (6-3, 6-2). Though he dropped the second set, Paul Giraud avenged the loss with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Lucas Labrunie.

Mitch Johnson won the first set of his match before dropping two sets in a loss to Axel Labrunie (3-6, 6-3, 6-4). Nitzan Ricklis was pushed to his limit in his first two sets of play, but he settled into a groove and overcame Andre Llagan by a score of 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.

With Ricklis’ performance, USF walked away with a 4-2 victory over the Rainbow Warriors. Their next match on the day was against the Wichita State University Shockers.

Wichita State jumped out in front with a 6-3 win over Garpered and Ricklis. The Dons evened the score as Huynh and Johnson survived a thriller to walk away with a 7-6 victory. Maior and Giraud fell in their match by a score of 7-5, and the Shockers claimed the doubles point to jump out to a 1-0 lead.

Johnson took the first whack at singles action against the Shockers but fell in straight sets to Stefan Latinovic (6-3, 6-1). Giraud dropped a close first set before getting routed by the Shockers’ Elio Lago (7-6, 6-1). The Shockers completed their 4-0 sweep as Murkel Dellien held off Ricklis’ comebacks (7-5, 6-4).

Day two of the Pacific Valley Championships saw the Dons go against the University of Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Dons took a 1-0 lead as they swept the doubles portion of the competition. Ricklis and Garpered cruised past Eric Hadigian and Theo Mcdonald (6-1). On court two, Huynh and Johnson came out on top with a 6-3 win over Matthew Hollingworth and Oliver Andersson.

In singles action, Giraud put away Hollingworth by a score of 6-2, 6-1. Huynh pushed USF’s lead up to three points with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Vincent Rettke.

Sophomore David Woodland was the first Don to feel the Bulldogs’ bite as he fell to Brandon Park in straight sets (6-2, 6-2). Maior put up a fight, but he ultimately succumbed to Andersson in two sets (7-5, 6-2).

In epic fashion, Ricklis came to the Dons’ aid with a three-set triumph over Sam Feit (6-4, 6-7, 6-4). With Ricklis’ win, USF beat the Bulldogs by a score of 4-2 and secured their spot on the podium.

On March 20, the Dons will return home to the Marin Tennis Club for a match against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers.


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