ST. PETER, Minn. — Fueled by sweeping the doubles matches, top-seeded Emory and No. 3 seed UC Santa Cruz advanced to the finals of the 2012 ITA Division III National Team Indoor Championship on Saturday. The Eagles posted an impressive 8-1 victory against No. 4 seed Kenyon, while the Banana Slugs claimed a 5-4 decision against second-seeded Washington-St. Louis.
Emory didn’t get off to a quick start in doubles play, but managed to settle in against Kenyon before letting any of the three matches get away. The Eagles were down a break at lines one and three in the opening games, but managed to stay on serve at the second position. Emory’s Elliot Kahler and Ian Wagner were able to secure the initial break of the match for a 6-5 lead, rolling through the final two games for an 8-5 victory against Austin Griffin and Paul Burgin.
At the third spot, the Lords’ raced out to a 4-1 lead, seemingly in line to take at least one point from doubles play. Eagle tandem Brian Kowalski and Will Humphreys did not go away however, winning four games in a row to hold a 7-5 advantage and serve for the set. Kevin Ye and Jake Matthews managed to break serve to stay in the match, which eventually would be forced into a tiebreak. Kowalski and Humphreys were able to jump on top with an early mini-break, which was all they needed to take the tiebreak seven points to four.
The matchup at the first position also appeared to be in Kenyon’s favor, as Michael Razumovsky and CJ Williams broke for a 3-1 lead against Emory’s Dillon Pottish and Chris Goodwin. The Lords made the lead stand up deep into the match, leading by as big of a margin as 7-4 when the Eagle pair took over. Pottish and Goodwin got the match back on serve trailing 7-6, following that up with a hold and a break of serve on a netted overhead by the Lords. Holding an 8-7 lead, Pottish was able to serve out the 9-7 win and sweep of the doubles for Emory.
Obviously energized by the stellar doubles results, the Eagles wasted little time in clinching the overall dual victory. The top-ranked player in the Division III rankings, Pottish, was first off court. He got off to a sluggish start against Kenyon’s Paul Burgin, falling behind 4-1, but rallied to win the final five games of the set to take it 6-4. Pottish was nearly perfect in the second set, dictating the points with his powerful baseline game and coming forward to finish off easy volleys. Pottish cruised through the second set 6-0, leaving Emory one point shy of advancing to the finals.
The Eagles would not have to wait long for the clincher to be provided. At the third spot, the Lords’ Williams took the first three games of the match against Wagner, but the he stormed back to get the set on serve at 3-3. The set stayed on serve until 5-4, when Wagner was able to break serve to win the first set. Wagner was determined to keep the momentum on his side, earning a break of serve early to put even more pressure on Williams, who was not able to hold his nerve. Wagner won the second set easily 6-1 after missing out on a couple of match point opportunities, moving Emory into the championship match.
For UC Santa Cruz, it appeared that just salvaging one point from the doubles matches would be an accomplishment with the slow start they suffered. The Banana Slugs fell behind early at spots one and three, but held strong at the second position. Even when Devin Nerenberg and Eli Scandalis went up a break on court two, they gave it right back to Kareem Farah and Kevin Chu of Washington-St. Louis. Nerenberg and Scandalis managed to break right back in the next game, serving out the win 8-6.
The other two doubles matchups featured Banana Slug duos battling back from deficits to force tiebreaks. At the first spot, Ian Stanley and Erik Rosner of UC Santa Cruz trailed most of the match against the Bears’ Adam and Ross Putterman. But the Putterman’s could not put the match away, letting Stanley and Rosner hang around to force a tiebreak. The tiebreak was as tight as the entire match, with a netted volley by Adam Putterman giving the Banana Slugs a 6-4 lead. Wash U claimed the next point, but a service winner on the following point closed out the 9-8 (5) victory.
On court three, Erich Koenig and Andre Halabi lost four games in a row to fall behind 7-4, but rallied back to even the score at 7-7 against Bear duo Cameron Chiang and Max Franklin. Each team held serve to move the match into a tiebreak, in which neither team held more than a two point lead. Chiang and Franklin were looking to even the score at six points all, but a double fault down match point secured the sweep for the Slugs.
Singles play did not provide immediate relief for UC Santa Cruz. The first match off court was a two sets triumph for the Bears, as Adam Putterman put away Nerenberg 6-3, 6-4 at the first position. One court over, the Slugs’ Koenig stayed on serve with Ross Putterman until 5-5 in the first, when Koenig was able to break; he took the opening set in the next game when Putterman netted a return. The second set was far less of a battle, with Koenig stretching a 2-1 lead out to 4-1. Putterman was not able to claw his way back, with Koenig winning the match 7-5, 6-2.
With things starting to tighten up ever so slightly, Rosner came to the rescue for UC Santa Cruz, clinching a berth in the finals for the Slugs. Rosner took the first set 6-4 with a late break of serve against Farah, but fell behind by a 4-1 margin in the second set. He was able to slowly turn the tide in the set, fighting back to even the score at 4-4. Rosner secured the crucial break in the next game for a 5-4 lead, which surely had to seem like quite the uphill battle to Farah with all that was on the line. Rosner’s service game was a straightforward hold for the Slug, moving Santa Cruz on to the finals against Emory.