May 16, 2010

* Courtesy of North Carolina Wesleyan Athletics

Baltimore, MD - For the first time in men's tennis history, the Battling Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan can call themselves regional champions.

NCWC earned its first-ever national quarterfinal berth with a thrilling come-from-behind 5-3 victory over host Johns Hopkins University on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. The Bishops, who fell behind 3-0 in doubles action, rebounded to sweep singles play and advance to quarterfinal play on Tuesday, May 25th in Oberlin, OH.

The Bishops had earned a spot in Sunday's regional championship with a 5-2 win over Vassar College on Saturday. Both of Vassar's points came in doubles play with Wesleyan stealing a 9-7 victory at the #2 seed. Alexey Rumyantsev, Artsiom Prostak, Clayton Sonn, and Ramon Pardo Garcia proceeded to earn straight-set wins at the #2, #4, #5, and #6 slots, respectively, to seal the win and set up their Sunday match with Hopkins.

Versus JHU, the 18-1 Bishops were able to avenge their only loss of the season, an 8-1 defeat at the hands of Hopkins back on March 20th. The 10th-ranked Blue Jays looked to run away with the match early after recording a doubles sweep with 9-7, 8-5, and 9-8 (7-2) wins. The Bishops, however, tied the match at 3-3 with straight-set wins by Lemongo, Sonn, and Rumyantsev.

Artsiom Prostak later gave NCWC a 4-3 advantage at the 4th slot with a 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 victory, leaving top-seeded Kalle Nikunen and 6th-seeded Marcelo Prata on the courts with Wesleyan needing just one more point to advance.

Nikunen, who was facing off against the nation's 13th-ranked David Maldow, took the first set 7-5 before dropping the second set 6-2. He then forged a 5-3 lead in the third set, but there was no need to finish the match as Prata did the honors with a 7-5 win in the third set of his match to seal the victory.

Wesleyan will now spend the next week preparing for the biggest match in program history, a quarterfinal match-up with the nation's top-ranked team, Middlebury College. Middlebury won its regional with a 5-0 victory over MIT to move to 20-2 on the season. The Panthers have won 16 straight matches, while Wesleyan is riding a 12-match winning streak.

Semifinal action is slated for the 26th, followed by the NCAA Division III National Championship on the 27th. Please continue to check www.ncwc.edu/athletics for updated links to Oberlin's tournament website (when available), which will feature area information and match times.