This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.
Riding a five-game win streak in arguably its best season in program history, the men’s tennis team fell 4-1 to No. 28 University of South Carolina on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
GW fell behind early in doubles play, an area that had carried the team all season. South Carolina decisively overpowered the Colonials in the early stages.
Senior Nikita Fomin and sophomore Danil Zelenkov were quickly defeated by a score of 4-8. The other two teams in play – seniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen and junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julian Tverijonas – were forced to play from behind.
Dias and Tverijonas lost to South Carolina’s No. 30 ranked doubles duo Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov. Fighting back from a steep deficit, Dias and Tverijonas were able to send their match to a tiebreaker.
In the tiebreaker, the Colonials jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but succumbed to an 8-4 run by the Gamecocks who would eventually take the match and the point. Thomsen and Svensson had their match suspended because South Carolina took the point.
With the first point awarded to the Gamecocks, the Colonials entered singles play with pressure to get back into the match and on the board.
“All the first sets were very close on every court,” senior Nikita Fomin said. “I don’t think [South Carolina] was expecting us to come out with energy in singles.”
The Colonials would win just one of their six opening sets, which came from Fomin at the No. 2 position (6-3).
Fomin would continue his strong play into the second set with a 6-2 win, earning the Colonials a point. Fomin’s singles win was the first NCAA point for the team in program history.
But the momentum was short lived as South Carolina took its second and third points at the No. 1 and No. 4 slots.
With their backs against the wall, the Colonials made a late surge by way of a tiebreaker win from Svensson in the No. 5 slot in the second set. But South Carolina would clinch the victory with a win against Thomsen at the No. 6 slot (6-4, 6-4).
“We definitely had our chances, but things didn’t quite fall into place,” Fomin said.
Though the team was disappointed with the day’s results, the season proved to be an overall success.
The Colonials ended the year with a record of 17-7, won their third Atlantic 10 Championship in four years and finished the season ranked as the No. 53 team in the nation.
“This has been our best season ever. We can’t be disappointed. It would have been nice to break into the second round of the NCAAs, but we’re getting there,” Munoz said. “There’s still more ahead for us.”