April 26, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI – It could be said that the Lamar men’s tennis team saved one of its most inspiring matches of the season for when it counted the most, and as the dust settled at Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center on Saturday, the Cardinals emerged with one of the program’s biggest wins in recent history, beating Nicholls 4-1 in the semifinals of the Southland Tournament.
“It was really an incredible match for us,” head coach Scott Shankles said. “This is the hardest that I’ve ever seen the guys play, and they just willed themselves to victory. We lost 7-0 to Nicholls earlier this season, so to see them elevate their game so much this time around was awe-inspiring.”
LU, which improved to 14-12 on the year, will now take on Southland regular season champion and defending tournament champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday. The Islanders beat New Orleans 4-0 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
“We didn’t come down here just to win one match,” Shankles said. “Corpus is an incredibly tough team that is playing some good tennis, but our mentality is that we’re here to win. We’re in the position that we need to be in to do that, and the guys are going to leave everything out on those courts tomorrow. The guys are ready.”
In the regular season meeting, Nicholls was able to hold off the Cards for a tough doubles point, but such was not the case this time around as the Red and White dominated at both No. 2 and No. 3 to give LU the early advantage. Nikita Lis and Mikko Rajamaki got it started with an 8-2 victory over Partha Adavelly and Lukas Clemens, and then the tandem of Trey Crysel and Michael Feucht clinched it just moments later with an 8-3 victory over Nico Mertens and Sam Meesen.
The Colonel duo of Kieren Cronin and Bernard Wezeman led 7-5 over Juuso Laitinen
and Jeandre Hoogenboezem
on Court 1.
In singles, Hoogenboezem continued his fantastic recent form, winning 6-4, 6-3 over Meessen at No. 5 for his eighth victory of the season. Earlier this week Hoogenboezem, a freshman out of South Africa, was named the Southland champion at No. 5 singles.
Feucht, who was in just his second match since returning from an injury that sidelined him for much of conference season, coasted to a 6-1 opening set victory over Southland Freshman of the Year Adavelly and then held him off in 7-6 fashion in the second to put the Cards just one point away from clinching.
However, Wezeman breathed life into the Colonels with a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory against Laitinen at No. 3. Lis made up for it, putting together an impressive comeback of his own to beat Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 at line two and send the Cards into the Southland final.
“Nikita’s will to win that match was unbelievable,” Shankles explained. “He won 6-1 while fighting cramps over the last two or three games of the set. He was limping around the court and still hitting winners. He didn’t care how much he was hurting physically, and he wouldn’t let it enter his mind. I’m very proud of how he performed today.”
In unfinished action, both Carl-Philip Lindqvist and Mikko Rajamaki advanced to third sets vs. Clemens and Cronin, respectively, when the match was halted.
LU, which notched just its third Southland Tournament victory since re-entering the conference in 1999, will return to Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center for the championship match on Sunday. First serve is set for 11 a.m.