#10 Spartans Split Opening Day at Stag Hen with Thrilling Win over #8 Whitman

#10 Spartans Split Opening Day at Stag Hen with Thrilling Win over #8 Whitman

The 10th-ranked Case Western Reserve University men's tennis team split a pair of close matches during the opening day of competition at the Stag Hen Invitational in Claremont, California on Tuesday, falling 5-4 to ninth-ranked Pomona-Pitzer in the opening round, before senior Kevin Dong clinched a 5-4 win over eighth-ranked Whitman College in the consolation round with a thrilling third-set tiebreaker victory.

The win over Whitman was the signature victory for the Spartans so far in the season, as Case Western Reserve moved to 10-3 on the season following Tuesday's action.  The victory put the Spartans in the fifth-place match in the tournament on Wednesday morning, where they will take on 11th-ranked Wesleyan College, which defeated Skidmore College 6-3 in the consolation semifinal on Tuesday.

In a rematch of the fifth-place match at the 2017 ITA DII Indoor National Championships, Pomona-Pitzer claimed wins in the first two doubles matches to be decided on Tuesday, with Anthony Bello and Spencer Simonides topping sophomore John Benedetto and senior Fred Daum 8-6 at no. 1 doubles, and the Sagehens' Graham Maassen and Jake Yasgoor besting seniors James Fojtasek and Phillip Gruber 8-3 at no. 2 doubles.  Freshman Anthony Kanam and sophomore David Zakhodin were able to pull the Spartans back within a point in the match, claiming an 8-4 win over Josh Gearou and Sam Gearou at third doubles.

In singles play, the Spartans received points with wins at no. 2 singles from freshman Siddharth Rajupet, 6-2, 4-6, 10-8 over Maassen, at no. 3 singles from sophomore Rob Stroup, 6-2, 6-2 over Bello, and at no. 6 singles from Dong, 6-2, 7-5 over Sam Gearou.  However, Pomona Pitzer claimed the three singles victories it needed to eke out a team victory, with Yasgoor (ranked 38th in DIII) winning 6-0, 6-1 over Fojtasek at first singles, Josh Kim picking up a 6-2, 7-5 win over freshman Sam Concannon at fourth singles, and Josh Gearou defeating senior Adam Collins 6-2, 6-1 in the fifth singles match.

The loss ended a five-match winning streak for the Spartans, while Pomona-Pitzer improved to 11-4 with the victory.

The Spartans had a quick turnaround, facing eighth-ranked Whitman just over an hour after the completion of their match with Pomona-Pitzer.  Case Western Reserve recovered quickly though, winning two of the three doubles matches to take an early lead in the contest.  At first doubles, Benedetto and Daum topped Zach Hewlin and Petar Jivkov 8-5, while Kanam and Zakhodin picked up an 8-6 win at third doubles over Trevor Fennessey and Gary Ho.  Whitman was able to get a point back at second doubles, with Robert Carter and Jake Hoeger, ranked 24th in DIII, besting Fojtasek and Gruber 8-6, putting the score at 2-1 Spartans heading into singles play.

Fojtasek claimed a key win for CWRU at no. 1 singles with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Hewlin, the 40th-ranked singles player in Division III.  However, Whitman picked up wins at second singles from Jivkov, 6-2, 6-4 over Rajupet, and Chase Friedman, 6-0, 6-4 over Stroup, tying the match at 3-3 with three singles contests left to be decided.

The remainder of the matches each went three sets.  Concannon put the Spartans a point away from clinching the match, coming from behind to defeat Carter in the fourth singles match, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.  However, Ho tied the match again for Whitman with a win over Kanam at sixth singles, 6-7, 6-0, 6-4, shifting all of the attention to the fifth singles contest between Dong and Daniel Foster. 

Dong claimed a win in the first set, 7-5, but fell in the second 2-6.  He held advantages of 4-1 and 5-3 in the third set, but Foster battled back to even the score at 5-5, and the set would eventually go into a tiebreaker to decide both the individual and team match.  With the tiebreaker knotted at 6-6, Dong won the final two points to clinch the match, and give the Spartans the victory over Whitman.

The Spartans will take on Wesleyan College on Wednesday, with the start time scheduled between 12:00 p.m. ET and 1:00 p.m. ET.  For more information on the match, including an official start time and location when it is made available, visit the official tournament website at http://cmsathletics.org/sports/mten/2016-17/releases/stag-hen.