VIRGINIA BEACH -- A three-match opening weekend for the Virginia Wesleyan College men's tennis team was anything but easy.
The Marlins opened up against a Division II Chowhan University team that advanced to the NCAA tournament last season, and followed that match with showdowns against Christopher Newport University and Franklin & Marshall College, both currently ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Atlantic South region.
Competition began impressively for the Marlins, who pinned an 8-1 setback on Chowhan. But, CNU, ranked No. 10 in the region, posted an 8-1 win over the Marlins, who were nipped 5-4 by Franklin & Marshall, ranked No. 12 in the region. VWC is currently ranked No. 17 in the same region.
Sophomore Brendan Kelleher (Baltimore, Md./Towson) emerged with a 3-0 singles record for the Marlins, while junior Drew Tomajczyk(Chesterfield/Home schooled) and rookie Adam Rosemblaum (Herzelya, Israel) both finished 2-1 in singles. Tyler Chang (Hvre deGrace, Md./Tome School) and Rosemblaum combined in doubles to also post a 2-1 record.
Junior Graham Wilson (Newport News/Menchville) dropped a couple of tough singles matches, but recorded one of the best victories of his current career at VWC when he defeated Chowhan's Farid Hajizada (Baku, Azerbijan) at the No. 1 position. Wilson posted a 6-3, 6-3 decision, knocking off Hajizada, who compiled a 23-5 record for the Hawks last season when he was the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's Rookie of the Year and an All-CIAA honoree.
Rosemblaum also pinned a loss on an All-CIAA honoree in Vian Doubograev (Minsk, Belarus), 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 5 flight. Doubograev and Hajizada, who led Chowhan's doubles last year with a 20-5 record, also fell to VWC as sophomore Kenny Downing (Washington, D.C./Home schooled) and Wilson posted a tough 9-7 win.
"This was a solid win for us," said VWC Tennis Director Darryl Cummings> "Chowhan has a talented team with players from all over the world. Last year, Chowhan was an NCAA Division II qualifier and they are projected to qualify again this year. Assistant coaches Lindsey Fisher and Chris Yost did a terrific job coaching #2 and #3 doubles. Winning all three doubles was a key for us."
Kelleher was the only Marlin to emerge with a victory against CNU, posting an impressive comeback win over Michael Dodd (Lubbock, Texas/Lubbock), 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. Chang dropped a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 decision to Max Kacher (Overland Park, Kan./Kansas City United) at No. 6 singles and Wilson and Downing were edge 9-7 at No. 1 doubles by Justin Cherny (Richmond/Trinity Episcopal) and David Reed (Easley, S.C./St. Joseph's).
"CNU played very well," said Cummings. "There were five points out there for us, but we needed to lead 2-1 after doubles. We needed to hold serve more in doubles by more effective serving and our net person being more active. The result of this match will provide us the needed experience to improve our doubles."
VWC showed improvement in doubles against Franklin & Marshall, but the Diplomats eked out a 9-7 win at the No. 2 spot to lead 2-1 entering singles competition. Chang and Rosemblaum won their second match in three days, 8-4 over Hamza Pataudi (Karachi, Pakistan/International School of Karachi) and Evan Drapeau (Los Angeles/Buckley School).
F&M clinched the match victory when Jack Rothman (Old Saybrook, Conn./Old Saybrook) edged Downing 7-5 in the third set of No. 2 singles. Downing won the opener 6-2, before Rothman rallied to win.
"This was a great college tennis match that came down to the end," said Cummings. "The guys stepped up in the doubles and did the right things to hold serve more often. Collectively in the doubles we tied Franklin & Marshall on holds and breaks; however, they got the key break at #2 doubles to put them up 2-1. In singles, Kenneth fought back from 2-5 down in the third set to tie the set at 5 all providing some very intense moments while saving multiple team match points along the way before falling 7-5 in the third."
Virginia Wesleyan (1-2) returns to competition on Saturday, Feb. 28, hosting Division I's University of Maryland-Eastern Shore at noon.