DePauw men's tennis finishes third at conference tournament
The DePauw Tigers men's tennis team had defeated Denison University (Granville, Ohio) the week before in their final match before the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament, yet they could not come up with a victory against them in their semifinal match of the tournament.
The Tigers fell to the Denison Big Red, 5-4, in a closely contested NCAC semifinal. Senior Michael Rardon knew it would be a tough match after their last meeting a week earlier.
"They were obviously trying to get revenge," said Rardon. "Last time we won a couple close sets, and we had the opportunities this time, but we couldn't close them out."
DePauw held a 2-1 advantage after doubles play, with wins at the first and second doubles slots. Senior Eric Hubbard and junior David Moss defeated Tyler Cempre and Matt McErlean 8-5 at first doubles, and the sophomore duo of Sam Miles and Ben Kopecky defeated Tom Cawood and Tim Martin 8-4 at the second doubles slot.
But despite the deficit, Denison battled back, winning four out of the six singles matches, including the fifth singles match to decide the outcome.
Junior Noah Swiler and sophomore Ben Kopecky won the only two singles matches for DePauw, with Swiler winning over Grant Veltman 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, and Kopecky defeating Matt McErlean 6-1, 6-4.
The match was tied at 4-4 with only the fifth singles match to finish. Senior Eric Hubbard had taken the first set 7-5, before losing the final two sets to Tyler Cempre. Cempre won the match 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, after rallying from a 5-2 third set deficit to win the match for the Big Red. Senior Michael Rardon described the final match at a 4-4 tie.
"Both teams were cheering like crazy and every point seemed heart-wrenching," said Rardon. "Denison played their hearts out, and obviously it's a devastating loss."
Denison eventually lost in the conference championship against fourth ranked nationally Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio).
After their semifinal loss to Denison, the Tigers played a third place match against Wittenberg University (Springfield, Ohio), whom they swept 5-0.
DePauw swept the doubles matches, all in straight sets giving them a 3-0 lead heading into singles. Michael Rardon wanted the men to end the year on a big victory.
"Obviously it wasn't the match we wanted to be in, it was very emotional," said Rardon. "I went in and told the guys, 'lets the end the season on a high note.'"
Sophomore Sam Miles and senior Eric Hubbard scored victories over their opponents to complete the sweep. Sam Miles defeated Ian Steicker 6-1, 6-4, and Hubbard defeated Sergio Fishkin 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, leaving the other matches unfinished.
The team finished with a final record of 17-8 and national ranking of 30th. The loss of valuable contributors in Hubbard and Rardon will be tough holes to fill, but the team does return its top two players in Miles and Kopecky as long as experienced juniors in Garlock, Swiler and Andrew Kahn, who missed the season due to injury.
"Our team didn't have it this year, plain and simple," Swiler said. "We were playing below our potential the whole year with the exception of a few matches. We will work on our games in the offseason and hopefully be more prepared and more energized in the fall."
So the 2012 season ends with disappointment, but senior Captain Rardon does finish his DePauw career with affection for his team and his sport.
"All the guys on our team are amazing," said Rardon. "We have had a lot of great memories together and we will always have a very close team."
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