Stevens rallies to beat Mary Washington in marathon second-round match
AMHERST, Mass. -- Stevens advanced to its first NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Championship Round of 16 with a four-hour, 5-4 victory against No. 22 Mary Washington on Friday.
The Ducks will meet top-seeded and sub-regional host No. 3 Amherst in the third round of the tournament at 9 a.m. ET Saturday.
The Ducks improved their record to 17-7 overall this year, while the Eagles ended their season at 14-11. The victory marks the Ducks' second all time against a ranked opponent, with Mary Washington the highest-ranked team the Ducks have ever beaten.
Ben Foran and Shota Tasaki started Stevens off on the right foot with a quick break at second doubles to lead 3-0. Meanwhile, Tyler Tisdale and Derek Smith fell behind by a break at third doubles while the NCAA individual championship-bound pairing of Matthew Heinrich and Chris Rosensteel held serve early at No. 1 doubles.
The Eagles closed out the victory at third doubles 8-1 to give Mary Washington the first point of the day while the first doubles team of Evan Charles and Sam Wichlin got a break. Heinrich and Rosensteel responded immediately with back-to-back breaks to take a 6-3 lead, while Foran came up with two huge service aces to hold the 5-2 lead at No. 2, which he and Tasaki quickly extended to 7-2 with a fourth consecutive Ducks break between the two courts.
The Eagles were not finished yet, as they began to battle back on both courts, picking up a break at No. 1 to go back on serve and fighting back from serving against match point to make it 7-3 at No. 2. Stevens was not about to let either lead slip away, however. Foran and Tasaki evened the overall match with an 8-3 win, and Heinrich and Rosensteel sealed the 2-1 lead heading into singles play with an 8-5 victory.
As singles play got under way, Mary Washington took back some momentum with early breaks at first, fifth and sixth singles. Heinrich broke right back on serve at No. 1, however, and Rosensteel surged to a 5-2 lead at second singles while Tasaki stayed on serve through 4-3 before taking the first set with a break. Smith and Tisdale dropped their first sets at fifth and sixth singles, respectively, and were followed by Foran dropping his at fourth singles, but the top of the Ducks' lineup held strong, with Rosensteel taking a one-set lead while Heinrich grinded out a 2-1 lead.
Kaleb Nguyen evened the match for Mary Washington with a sweep at sixth singles and Wichlin added another victory at fifth singles to give the Eagles the 3-2 lead. Mary Washington began to take control of the match, getting breaks at third and fourth singles, but Heinrich and Rosensteel still gave the Ducks hope, with Heinrich taking a one-set lead while Rosensteel broke early for a 3-0 edge in the second set.
The Eagles continued clawing back, breaking back on serve at No. 2 and coming within one point of clinching the match with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at fourth singles. Alex Blakhin fought all the way back to force a third set against Rosensteel, as did Charles against Tasaki at third singles. Blakhin then went up an early break while Tasaki took a 4-0 lead.
With no margin for error, the Ducks' veterans took the team on their shoulders with the program's first third-round appearance at stake. Rosensteel recorded back-to-back breaks to go up 5-3 while Tasaki was broken twice but held serve to lead 6-5. Tasaki quickly played himself into match point at 30-40 and Charles faulted on his first serve, but then called an injury timeout with a leg cramp.
During the intermission, Rosensteel finally closed out second singles 6-3 to even the match and bring all eyes onto Charles and Tasaki. With injury time up, Charles came out and won a point to stay alive and force a deuce, and six match points later, Tasaki came out on top to give the Ducks the 5-4 victory.