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Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

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.”

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Monday, April 28, 2014 11:10 p.m.

Men’s tennis earns eight postseason honors

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Fomin was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team. Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Fomin was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team. Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

The Atlantic 10 recognized the men’s tennis team with eight postseason honors Monday after a season of consistent play that resulted in the program’s third conference championship in four years.

Though only fielding the minimum six players in their regular lineup, quality seemed to trump quantity as all six players came away with at least one award.

Junior Francisco Dias led the team, earning the title of the A-10’s Most Outstanding Performer. Dias went 17-10 in singles play this season, including four victories over nationally ranked opponents.

This marks Dias’ second year receiving the award, tying him for the most in program history with alumnus Matt Hane, who earned the honor in 2002 and 2004. Dias also earned a spot on the All-Conference First Team list.

Joining Dias on that roster was senior Nikita Fomin, freshman Julius Tverijonas and sophomore Danil Zelenkov. Fomin went 18-10 in singles play this season with his most memorable contribution coming by way of a championship-clinching win against VCU in the A-10 finals.

Tverijonas finished the season 13-6, proving that the lone freshman on the team was more than ready to compete. Zelenkov holds a team-best singles record of 21-7 as well as a current 18-match unbeaten streak.

Rounding out the lineup was the senior doubles duo of Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen, who were selected to the All-Conference Second Team. In singles play, Svensson finished the season 18-11 while Thomsen finished at 12-8. As a pair, the duo went 11-8.

The Colonials also had two selections to the all-academic team with Zelenkov and Thomsen, who hold a 3.96 and a 3.93 GPA, respectively.

The conference also gave a nod to head coach Greg Munoz, as he earned his third Coach of the Year award. In his eighth year at the helm, Munoz led the team to a No. 1 seeding in the A-10 Championships, its third conference title under his direction and a 17-7 record this season.

Up next for GW is the NCAA regional tournament. The Colonials will learn their seeding on Tuesday and prepare for the first round of play scheduled for May 9.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rob Bartnichak.

Despite an early lead, the women’s tennis team fell to No. 2-seeded Saint Louis 4-2 Saturday in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championships.

GW jumped ahead early in the match, winning the doubles point. The No. 1-positioned duo of senior Isabella Escobar and freshman Taylor Nederlander won 8-6, while the No. 2-positioned team of sophomore Christina Carpenter and senior Leah Pascarella also clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory.

Leah Pascarella hits an overhead shot earlier this season. | Hatchet File Photo

Leah Pascarella hits an overhead shot earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo.

But in singles, the Colonials were outplayed by a superior Saint Louis team that entered Saturday’s match on a 10-match winning streak.

Nederlander at No. 3 and Carpenter at No. 6 both lost their matches in straight sets, while Robins at No. 1 and Escobar at No. 5 dropped their matches in three sets. Only Pascarella at the No. 2 slot was able to defeat her opponent for the Colonials (3-6, 6-4, 6-4).

“We weren’t overconfident. We knew that we won the doubles point last time, too, and this was going to be another battle,” head coach Greg Munoz said. ”Saint Louis played well. We didn’t back down. It was a fight to the very end, and anything could have happened.”

It was a solid year for the program, which finishes the season 9-6 overall. Pascarella, who played her last match as a Colonial on Saturday, said this year’s team was the best she has played with since she joined the program in 2010.

“Out of my four years, we had the most talent on this team,” Pascarella said, adding that she expects the young returning Colonials team to improve.

GW will face a series of challenges heading into the next season. It will return seven players – and none will be seniors. Plus, Munoz said the team will likely have a demanding regular season schedule.

But sophomore Lana Robins said the Colonials can handle these tests.

“[We’ll have] a good freshman class, an improved returning sophomore class and our juniors are really gonna have to step it up and be leaders,” Robins said.

Munoz said the team is moving in the right direction as he tries to “change the culture of the program.” The Colonials have their sights set on a conference title, and Munoz said the program will continue to develop until it reaches that goal.

“Until we’re a top-75 [team], there is going to be improvements to make” Munoz said. “It starts with the culture and the work ethic and discipline.”

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Aaron Esparza.

For the No. 54 men’s tennis team, this weekend’s impressive pair of wins against local rivals, Georgetown and George Mason, weren’t unexpected, but they were important steps on the team’s journey for a top seed in the upcoming Atlantic-10 Tournament.

In Friday’s Senior Day matchup against Georgetown (7-11), the Colonials were propelled to an easy win by the mixture of emotions, clinching the meet early at the No. 2 singles spot. While the team collectively dominated in singles, freshman Julius Tverijonas and senior Ulrik Thomsen undoubtedly stood out with their straight sets wins.

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

In doubles, with the match already won, the Colonials tested with new lineups – something they had been hesitant to do all season because of their lack of depth. The consistent No. 1 group of junior Francisco Dias and Tverijonas won, 8-4, but the experimental pairings of Thomsen and senior Sinan Ipeker, as well as Fomin and sophomore Azan Piperno proved to be less successful.

Overall, however, it was, “a really nice way to wrap it up,” said Svensson, describing his last ever home match at GW.

“It was a very special feeling to finish up the last match on the GW courts with a win and seeing my fellow seniors also winning,” Fomin said, “I was very happy to end on a good note. But to have the last match on the GW courts was a little bit sad so it was a mixed feeling.”

Senior Ulrik Thomsen serves the ball in GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Ulrik Thomsen serves the ball in GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The (5-2) victory put the team back in the win column after a ranked loss last week to Wake Forest last week.

Saturday’s win against George Mason (12-8) brought GW within one point of the Patriots in the tight Revolutionary Rivalry, 8-7.

In doubles play, the No. 1 duo of Dias and Tverijonas – No. 86 in the nation – were tested by George Mason’s Joe Hill and James Lange, but eventually took the win in a tiebreaker. Apart from that small hiccup, the Colonials easily took the doubles point with convincing wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 slots.

In singles, GW never faced any serious threat, with all six players winning in straight sets. In the end, the Colonials took the win 7-0 and moved to 14-6 on the season with a 3-0 record in conference play.

According to head coach Greg Munoz, the weekend’s wins will not raise the team’s position to a No. 1 seed in the A-10, but will help them solidify the No. 2 slot. These wins make the squad “mentally fresh,” he said, knowing that they are “playing our best tennis [of the season].”

If the Colonials maintain their No. 2 seeding, their first tournament match will be a Friday matchup at 1:00 p.m. in Charlottesville, VA next week.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

The men’s tennis team may have finally confronted its ceiling this weekend.

The No. 53 team in the nation showed its conference dominance through the first two games of the weekend, comfortably handling Atlantic 10 rivals Fordham and Richmond, 5-1 and 6-1, respectively. But in its loss to No. 21 Wake Forest, the Colonials also showed the vast difference between top 60 and top 25 teams.

During the victories, sophomore Danil Zelenkov extended his streak of unbeaten play to 12 matches, winning in straight sets both days.

Seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Viktor Svennson practice on the Mount Vernon Campus earlier this week. Hatchet File Photo

Seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Viktor Svennson practice on the Mount Vernon Campus earlier this week. Hatchet File Photo

On Sunday, the team traveled to take on No. 21 Wake Forest – easily GW’s highest ranked opponent of the season. The team knew they were up against a powerhouse, but one that had lost four of its last 10 matches.

According to head coach Greg Munoz, with the Demon Deacons playing their second match of the day, the game plan was to tire their opponent with “1000 percent effort, energy, and focus.”

The team showcased that effort early in doubles play, when the No. 76 duo of junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julius Tverijonas won a close tiebreaker, 8-7. However, the No. 2 pair of senior Nikita Fomin and Zelenkov were not as fortunate, finding themselves on the losing end of a similar tiebreaker, 7-8. In the No. 3 spot, the senior duo of Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen came up short against Wake Forest’s Adam Lee and Anthony Delcore, losing the set, 5-8, and giving away the doubles point.

Though the Colonials performed admirably, it was clear in singles play that the Demon Deacons were, simply, the more talented team. With a roster that boasted three nationally ranked players, Wake Forest secured the 4-0 win quickly with wins at the No. 1, 2 and 4 slots.

Despite the unbalanced results of the weekend, Munoz described his team’s situation as, “an unknown team that’s been steady in the rankings.”

GW (12-6) lost an opportunity to solidify its impressive season with a win against a top 25 team, but proved once more that they are still a threat to grab one of the top two seeds in the A-10 Tournament. The Colonials are now perfect in conference play, at 2-0, with less than two weeks remaining before postseason competition.

The Colonials will move on this weekend in their home finale against Georgetown Friday at noon.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza

In its first match since having it’s seven-game win streak snapped, the men’s tennis team not-so-surprisingly responded with a weekend of dominant play.

The Colonials took down Morgan State (1-8) and UMBC (9-7) by overwhelming scores of 7-0 and 6-1, respectively.

Despite starting out “a little sluggish” in the doubles match against UMBC, GW would find its rhythm midway through the match and turn up the intensity as play continued. The Colonials swept the matches, 8-4, 8-3 and 8-6 to take the first point.

During singles play, GW came out with the heightened energy and swept every match in straight sets. In the No. 1 matchup, junior Francisco Dias edged out Morgan State’s Duk-Young Park 6-4, 6-3. In the No. 2 through No. 6 matches, the most competitive result was a 6-2, 6-1 win from senior Nikita Fomin.

With Saturday’s dominating 7-0 sweep of the Bears, the team clearly looked to have rediscovered its confidence. Assistant coach Anthony Lee enthusiastically described the squad as “match tough, match ready, confidence ready, and ready to go to work tomorrow.”

Although Sunday’s matchup brought a much more formidable opponent in UMBC, it was the same story of dominance for the Colonials.

GW jumped out to an early win in doubles, with the three pairs comfortably handling the competition by scores of 8-6, 7-3 and 8-2.

In singles play, the No. 2 through No. 6 spots were once again convincingly won in straight sets. Senior Viktor Svensson, who was only serving at 50 percent according to head coach Greg Munoz, had an especially impressive win, considering the injury.

Freshman Julius Tverijonas had his first game-clinching point of the season, 7-5, 6-3, taking the weight off traditional upperclassmen closers, seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Svensson.

The only UMBC point of the day came from a determined Justin Carter against Fomin – 3-6, 7-6 and 10-8. But by then, the match was already out of reach at 6-0.

After this weekend’s success, the team has an almost two-week lull in competition before conference play. Munoz said the team will look to “sharpen up” doubles play in preparation for the approaching Atlantic 10 Tournament April 17.

Next on the schedule for the Colonials is a conference matchup against Fordham (3-9) at the Mount Vernon Tennis Center, Friday April 4th.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014 7:40 p.m.

Women’s tennis can’t keep up with VCU

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rob Bartnichak.

The women’s tennis team fell to VCU on the road Saturday at the Thalhimer Tennis Center in Richmond, Va., falling by the score of 7-0.

The Rams won all doubles matches to get the early point, and then swept GW in the individual matches. Freshman Taylor Nederlander – competing in the No. 3 spot – would win four games in her match, the most by any Colonial on the day.

The loss brings the Colonials overall record to 4-5 and 2-2 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams came in having lost two straight matches, while GW had won four of its last five, but VCU showed why it was picked to win the A-10 at the start of the season.

“Going into the match, we knew VCU was at a higher level than any team in the conference,” head coach Greg Munoz said. “But I was happy with the way we competed.”

Nederlander lost her match 6-4, 6-1, while senior Leah Pascarella – playing in the No. 1 position – was defeated by No. 72 Cindy Chala 6-1, 6-1. Sophomore Lana Robins lost her match 6-0, 6-3, playing in the No.2 slot.

“I enjoyed the way I competed, but I had a lot of frustrating points,” Robins said. “We just need to take advantage of the opportunities and those big points.”

Despite the defeat, both Munoz and his players saw the match as an opportunity to develop. Despite VCU being at a higher level than his team, Munoz recognized that the Rams are also at a higher level than every other team in the conference. In other words, after seeing how his girls played, the score might have come out different today against other A-10 foes.

“I thought that if the women compete like they did today, we’re going to win every match this year,” Munoz said.

The loss to VCU gives GW back-to-back A-10 losses, as they have not won a conference match since defeating Massachusetts and Fordham in the first week of March.

The team is back in play Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on the road against James Madison. The Colonials next conference matchup will be against Duquesne March 30 in Pittsburgh.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

Coming into the 2014 spring season, the women’s tennis team was picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 – smashed in between Massachusetts at No. 3 and Fordham at No. 5.

With a 5-2 win against the Minutemen and a 4-1 win against the Rams this weekend, the Colonials showed that preseason votes are not going to decide their season’s fate.

Carrying momentum from its first win – a 6-1 performance against UMBC – GW looked like more than a conference contender this weekend.

In the conference opener against UMass, a combined effort from the doubles pairs of senior Isabella Escobar and freshman Taylor Nederlander, as well as freshman Grace Egger and sophomore Lana Robins, took care of the doubles point with 8-5 and 8-6 wins, respectively.

From this early spark, the team took control of the singles matches, grabbing 4 wins and 2 losses to secure the 5-2 win.

Even more exciting, for the team’s long-term hopes, was the return of sophomore Stephanie Wei after a three game hiatus due to injury. Wei and senior Leah Pascarella looked fresh in their doubles match, leading 7-5 before it went unfinished, but Wei would go on to lose her first singles match of the season, 3-6, 2-6.

With just Saturday to rest, the team traveled to face Fordham Sunday, in many ways repeating the same game plan they executed against the Minutemen.

The newfound strength in doubles continued as the duo of Robins and Egger again dominated in an 8-1 performance, while the team of Pascarella and Wei looked even more comfortable en route to an 8-2 win.

The Colonials finished singles play with three more victories, all of them coming in convincing straight sets. The most impressive: Egger’s perfect 6-0, 6-0 match in the No. 6 slot. Egger would be one of four Colonials to win both her singles matches on the weekend, along with Robins, Pascarella and Nederlander.

Explaining this dramatic turnaround, head coach Greg Munoz cited the recent “top form” Pascarella has shown for the team in competition, as well as the emotional lift that Wei’s return has brought to the lineup.

Despite the excitement from the weekend, it was not that long ago that this team was desperate for its first win. Munoz believes that the team’s new direction is setting them on the right path to accomplish their preseason goals of being a top three seed and making it to the A-10 finals.

Standing in the way are 16 more equally important regular season matches, with one date in particular – April 6 – standing out to the Colonials.

It’s not the start of the A-10 tournament, but instead, just a regular season matchup against conference-rival Richmond. To Munoz, who is still figuring out the women’s conference in his first year as head coach, he knows how much of a milestone a win against the Spiders would be.

“If we can show that we can beat Richmond that says a lot about the women’s program,” Munoz said.

GW was defeated by Richmond in the A-10 quarterfinals two seasons ago and lost to them 5-2 in a regular season match last year. Before VCU’s A-10 Championship win last season, the Spiders had won four consecutive conference titles.

To be successful against powerhouses like Richmond, GW will need the continued contributions and leadership from its only two upperclassmen: co-captain seniors Isabella Escobar and Leah Pascarella.

Additionally, the Colonials will need to continue their recent success in doubles play. Munoz, knowing the importance doubles has in setting the tone for each match, has transferred his strategy from the men’s team of focusing on the doubles point. The women have slowly adapted this style of play to the point that it has “become a real strength” Munoz declared.

Although their record (3-3) may not sound too intimidating, this women’s tennis team has already shown they can handle adversity, with the abrupt head coaching transition being almost unnoticeable. Don’t be surprised to find this team competing for a top spot in the conference standings and making noise come late April.

Next on the schedule is a back-to-back home stand against Saint Louis and Towson, March 10 and 11. They will be the first matches at the newly refurbished GW Tennis Center for either tennis team this season.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

Celebrating his 23rd birthday, senior Ulrik Thomsen gave his men’s tennis teammates a present of their own, clinching their 4-3 win over St. John’s Sunday, with a come from behind victory.

Last week, the men’s tennis team got off to a rough start, dropping back-to-back matches to Top 75 opponents. With such lofty goals as an Atlantic-10 championship, getting back on track this past weekend was a must.

Arriving at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the Colonials immediately jumped out to a good start, taking the first point of the evening on the strength of their doubles play. In the first match, junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julius Tverijonas ran away with a 6-1 victory, followed in the second match by senior Nikita Fomin and sophomore Danil Zelenkov with a 6-3 win.

Head coach Greg Munoz said earlier this season that consistently getting the doubles point will be huge for his team, especially against tough, evenly matched opponents like A-10 foe VCU.

In singles action, GW faced a stronger threat from the Red Storm offense. Although St. John’s never seemed to dominate any individual match, they instead took advantage of their collective depth against the shallow Colonials squad.

In the first singles match, Dias faced off against St. John’s R.J. Del Nunzio and lost the first set by a close score of 5-6, but rallied to win the next two sets 6-1, 6-3 to take the point. In match No. 2, Fomin experienced the first loss of the evening against SJU’s Erick Reyes with an uneven score of 5-6, 6-1, 1-6.

The two teams continued this back-and-forth struggle, reaching a score of 3-3, until Thomsen gave the Colonials the victory with two very strong final sets (5-6, 6-4, 6-3).

While it may be easy to concede this match as GW’s ability to defeat only unranked opponents, it’s hard to ignore the intangibles behind the victory that could serve the team well as it ramps up for more competitive play. That sentiment was echoed by Munoz after the match.

“Great heart [shown by] Francisco Dias and Ulrik Thomsen,” Munoz said. “Those two guys’ wins today made a huge statement of our improvements, our mental toughness, and hopefully it starts us towards more winning ways.”

GW will head to Hanover, NH this weekend for the ECAC Indoor Championships.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Hassan Haider.

Despite wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, the women’s tennis team dropped to 0-2 Saturday afternoon, falling to Navy in a close 4-3 match.

Senior Leah Pascarella, an Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team selection last season, won in her No. 2 singles match, 2-6, 7-5 (10-4), while sophomore Lana Robins was victorious in the No. 1 singles slot, 6-2, 6-0. Ultimately, though, losses in two of the three doubles matches would do in the Colonials, as they couldn’t grab the vital doubles point.

Senior Leah Pascarella serves at a match on the Mount Vernon Campus last season. Hatchet File Photo

Leah Pascarella serves at a match on the Mount Vernon Campus last season. Hatchet File Photo

Taylor Nederlander also won at No. 4 singles, 6-4, 7-5, as did the duo of Grace Egger and Robins in the first doubles match, 6-1.

“I think the slower courts hurt us at No. 2 doubles,” head coach Greg Munoz said. “No. 3 we should have won, but an ankle injury from the Maryland match hurt our chances.”

Pascarella echoed her head coach saying, “the courts did not allow me to play the way I normally do. I had to really focus on being consistent in the second set to get the win.”

Despite starting the season with two losses, Munoz believes that the team is not in trouble.

“These were two tough matches and knowing that Richmond lost 5-0 to Maryland and Georgetown lost 4-3 to Navy shows we are not in bad shape,” Munoz said.

Moving forward, he believes the freshman will play a much larger role in strengthening the team, and made it clear that he will not hesitate to make adjustments to the team’s starting lineup.

“There will be some changes in the singles and doubles lines to give us a more competitive team.”

Looking ahead, the next match for the Colonials will be on Feb. 14 when they face Liberty at the Wheaton Indoor Tennis Center in Maryland.

“We have a already made a lot of progress from our first loss against Maryland two weeks ago,” Pascarella said, “so as long as we continue to work hard and in practice and keep our intensity up, we will be in a good place against Liberty.”

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