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 for updated links to Oberlin's tournament website (when available), which will feature area information and match times.