ST. PETER, Minn. — Emory, behind commanding doubles play, claimed the 2012 ITA Division III National Men’s Team Indoor Championship on Sunday. Emory swept through doubles play against UC-Santa Cruz, winning by an overall score of 7-2. The title is the fifth in program history for the Eagles, which is the most of any team in the nation.
Emory’s doubles play was much improved from the opening round of the tournament, when the Eagles dropped two of three points to Gustavaus Adolphus.
“The Gustavus match was a little difficult for us.” Emory head coach John Browning said. “I think our young guys felt the pressure a little bit in a match we were supposed to win. Overall I think that was good for them. I thought it really helped for them to be able to see that this team can overcome some deficits. I think we still have a long way to go to be where we need to be. We have a lot of work left to do. This tournament is all about building confidence and momentum early in the season and moving forward with that.”
Emory was able to sweep the doubles against UC-Santa Cruz, and all three tandems executed at a high level once again in the finals. Elliot Kahler and Ian Wagner took control immediately at line two against Eli Scandalis and Devin Nerenberg. The Eagle duo won the opening three games of the match, with the one break in hand being all they would need. Scandalis and Nerenberg were able to hold serve throughout until the final game, when Kahler and Wagner broke to secure the win 8-4.
The matchup on court one also went to Emory, as Dillon Pottish and Chris Goodwin held off UC Santa Cruz’s Erik Rosner and Ian Stanley 8-6. The Eagle pair seemed to relax after Pottish was able to hold serve in a game that featured numerous deuces, evening the score at 2-2. Pottish and Goodwin broke serve in the next game, managing to hold serve the rest of the way to give Emory its second point. Line three was the only doubles match in which the Banana Slugs held a lead. On three separate occasions, Erich Koenig and Andre Halabi were up a break on Will Humphreys and Brian Kowalski, but only once were they able to consolidate the break. Humphreys and Kowalski found themselves down a break at 4-3, but reeled off four consecutive games to not only get back on serve, but go up a break for the first time. Koenig and Halabi were able to close to within 7-5, but the Eagle duo held on for an 8-5 victory, giving Emory all three doubles matches.
The Eagles did not let the Banana Slugs entertain thoughts of making a huge comeback, taking the first two singles matches off court to clinch the title. A day after providing the clincher against Kenyon, Ian Wagner once again came through with a big singles victory, defeating Halabi 6-4, 6-2 at the third position. The first set remained on serve until the final game, when Wagner came through with a break to take the set. He fell behind an early break at 2-1 in the second, but rallied to win the final five games of the match, which ended with a backhand sent into the net by Halabi.
Dillon Pottish, one of Emory’s seniors and current No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA Division III College Tennis Rankings, came through with the clinching victory. Pottish and Nerenberg exchanged early breaks of serve to start the match, but Pottish broke again to take a 5-3 lead. He served for the set at 5-4, but made several unforced errors to give the break back for 5-5. The Eagle senior was able to dig in the next game, pressuring Nerenberg with his aggressive baseline game. Pottish put away an overhead on break point, earning another chance to serve out the set. That service game was a battle as well, but Pottish finally prevailed when a Nerenberg slice went into the net.
Pottish had all momentum on his side when he broke to open the second set, but he was still frustrated at times by the stellar retrieving of Nerenberg. Pottish had a slight dip in his level of play to hand the break right back, but found his rhythm from the baseline again to go up a break at 2-1. Nerenberg continued to fight, chasing down ball after ball, but he did not have enough offense to threaten Pottish, who eventually closed out the match 6-4, 6-2.
The remaining four singles matches were played out despite the match being clinched. The Banana Slugs got on the board after a win at line two, as Erich Koenig split sets with Emory’s Kowalski before winning the third in a super tiebreak 13 points to 11. The Eagles took the next two matches off court to close out their scoring for the day, as Eric Halpern turned in a solid effort to win at the fourth spot 6-4, 6-4, while freshman Alex Ruderman defeated Sam Rodgers 6-2 in a shortened-format match. The final match of the tournament went to Santa Cruz thanks to Bryce Bettwy, who was able to overcome dropping the middle set to Emory’s Simon Lavoie-Perusse 6-1 to claim the third in a super tiebreak 10 points to seven.