March 27, 2014
BEAUMONT – It was yet another historic day at Thompson Family Tennis Center on Thursday, and similar to last month’s breakthrough victory vs. UT Arlington, it all came down to a Finland native as Juuso Laitinen clinched the Lamar men’s tennis team’s first-ever victory over UTSA.
Due to expected inclement weather, the Cardinals (11-8) and Roadrunners engaged in the singles round first, and the necessity of a doubles round hinged on Laitinen’s battle with Joel Rubio on Court 3. Laitinen, the eldest of the three LU freshmen at the top of the lineup, won 7-5 in the first but fell in a 7-6 nail-biter in the second to force a third set. He responded quickly, grabbing a 6-3 decision for his 10th win of the season.
“It was great to see it get clinched on Juuso’s racket,” head coach Scott Shankles said. “This is a big win for us, and to see him come in and perform like he has after having to sit out last year is a wonderful feeling. He had to watch us play all those matches when we went 4-17, and I know he paid attention learned. He’s done so well for us this year.”
UTSA (8-12), a four-time Southland champion before leaving the league after the 2012 season, previously had not lost to LU in the 21-year history of the series.
Steven McMullan got the Cards going with a quick win at No. 6, beating Matt Mussenden 6-1, 6-4, and Mikko Rajamaki wasn’t far behind, handing Kolby Kilgo a 6-2, 6-0 loss at the fifth spot.
However, despite LU taking home opening set victories on all six courts, the other four would prove to be tight affairs, beginning with Michael Feucht, who fell 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 to Yannick Junger at the top spot. Carl-Philip Lindqvist was able to regain the Card advantage momentarily with a 7-5, 7-5 win at No. 4, but Nikita Lis dropped a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 encounter to Tomas Stillman to set the stage for Laitinen.
“About a week or two ago, we talked about how the guys at numbers 4, 5 and 6 need to step up,” Shankles said. “They really responded, and I couldn’t be more proud of how they performed today to carry us to this win.”
The match marked the final non-conference affair of the season for LU, which will start up Southland play this weekend at Oral Roberts before returning home to take on Nicholls next week.