BEAUMONT, Texas -- It was yet another historic day at Thompson Family Tennis Center on Thursday, and similar to last month’s breakthrough victory versus Texas-Arlington, it all came down to a Finland native as Juuso Laitinen clinched Lamar’s first victory against UTSA.
Due to expected inclement weather, the Cardinals (11-8) and Roadrunners engaged in the singles round first, and the necessity of a doubles round hinged on Laitinen’s battle with Joel Rubio on court No. 3. Laitinen, the eldest of the three LU freshmen at the top of the lineup, won 7-5 in the first but fell in a 7-6 nail-biter in the second to force a third set. He responded quickly, grabbing a 6-3 decision for his 10th win of the season.
“It was great to see it get clinched on Juuso’s racket,” head coach Scott Shankles said. “This is a big win for us, and to see him come in and perform like he has after having to sit out last year is a wonderful feeling. He had to watch us play all those matches when we went 4-17, and I know he paid attention learned. He’s done so well for us this year.”
UTSA (8-12), a four-time Southland champion before leaving the league after the 2012 season, previously had not lost to LU in the 21-year history of the series.
Steven McMullan got the Cards going with a quick win at No. 6, beating Matt Mussenden 6-1, 6-4, and Mikko Rajamaki wasn’t far behind, handing Kolby Kilgo a 6-2, 6-0 loss at the fifth spot.
However, despite LU taking opening-set victories on all six courts, the other four would prove to be tight affairs, beginning with Michael Feucht, who fell 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 to Yannick Junger at the top spot. Carl-Philip Lindqvist was able to regain the Card advantage momentarily with a 7-5, 7-5 win at No. 4, but Nikita Lis dropped a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 encounter to Tomas Stillman to set the stage for Laitinen.
“About a week or two ago, we talked about how the guys at numbers 4, 5 and 6 need to step up,” Shankles said. “They really responded, and I couldn’t be more proud of how they performed today to carry us to this win.”