VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Wesleyan University men's tennis team wrapped up their 2019 season with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the #2 seed Hampden-Sydney College on Saturday afternoon at the Everett Tennis Center. The third seeded Marlins reached the semifinal by defeating sixth seed Randolph Macon 5-2 while HSC defeated the University of Lynchburg 5-0.
In their May 11th meeting Hampden-Sydney edged the Marlins 6-3 after sweeping all three doubles positions. In today's match, the Tigers continued to play strong doubles going up 2-1 at the break. At #1 doubles HSC juniors Michael and Mathew Moody defeated VWU's Nick Gunther and Mitchell Perry 8-2. At the number three position, Marlin senior Paul Gladstone and sophomore Michael Portera quickly went up 3-0 before the Tiger's Clark Cummings and Tyler Brice fought back taking the set 8-4. At #2 doubles, VWU's Timothy Tep and Anthony Wilson found themselves down a break of serve 7-6 before breaking back to push the match into a tiebreaker. In the breaker, the Tigers went up early and earned one match point but Wilson dug out a low volley extending the point leading to a Marlins mini break of serve. From then on Tep and Wilson took enough points to win the tiebreaker 8-6.
With the Marlins down 1-2 heading into singles they would need to secure four of the six singles matches. Drawing first blood for the Marlins was senior Paul Gladstone with his 6-3, 6-3 win over HSC's Michael Moody; it was the second time Gladstone has beat Moody in three weeks as he defeated him 6-1, 7-5 in their regular season match up. With the score tied at 2-2 the Tigers were next to claim a singles point when Clark Cummings defeated VWU's Anthony Wilson 6-4, 6-3 at #5 singles, putting the Tigers up 3-2. The Marlins evened up the score at 3-3 when junior Andreas Combos defeated Grayson Burns 6-1, 6-2 at #4 singles. Shortly thereafter Marlin sophomore Mitchell Perry avenged an earlier season loss to HSC's Tyler Brice 6-3, 7-5 at #6 singles.
With the Marlins up 4-2 and needing only one more singles victory to secure the win all eyes shifted to number two and three singles, where both matches were in 3rd sets. At #2, Marlin freshman Timothy Tep took the first set 6-3 before dropping the second 6-2 to HSC's Mathew Moody. Moody took the 3rd set 6-1 evening the team match score at 4-4. Meanwhile at #3, Marlin junior Nick Gunther had battled back from dropping the first set 7-6 to take the second set 6-3. Gunther was returning at 4-3 and earned one break point against the Tiger's Will Driskill. Driskill went on to hold to push to the deciding set to 4-4 before breaking Gunther's serve, putting him up 5-4 serving. In the ensuing game, Driskill held serve giving him a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 match clinching win sending his team to Sunday's final vs. Washington and Lee.
"We competed very hard today at every spot. I'm so proud of all of our guys. They worked and competed hard all year and created amazing team culture. We took a big step forward this year as a tennis program and we're looking forward to next season. Hampden-Sydney beat us today, we didn't hand it to them." said Marlins head coach Marty Perry.
With the loss the Marlins end their season with a 15-10 record and are currently ranked 20th in the ITA Atlantic South region. The Tigers improved to 13-9 and will take on top seeded Washington and Lee University in tomorrow's ODAC final. Match time is set for 11 am and has been moved inside to Old Dominion University due to rain in the forecast.