ST. PETER, Minn. -- Gustavus Adolphus advanced to the third round of the 2014 NCAA tournament with a 5-0 victory against Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday afternoon at the Brown Outdoor Tennis Complex. Although the box score suggests a dominating win for the host institution, the match was drama-filled and tightly contested from start to finish. The Gusties earned all three doubles points by just two games on each court before receiving wins from Brad Entwistle and Joey MacGibbon in singles.
Riding an eight-match winning-streak, Gustavus heads into Sunday’s regional championship for the second consecutive season. At 29-5 overall, the Gusties will face top-seeded Trinity (Texas) on Sunday afternoon at the Brown Outdoor Tennis Complex.
“The combination of energy, trust, and belief in each other helped us earn a victory over a very talented UW-Whitewater team today,” Gustavus head coach Tommy Valentini said. “We saw them earlier in the year and the team we saw today was a completely different one. They have a lot of guys who have played in a lot of big matches, so it was huge for us to respond with three wins in three tight doubles matches. The guys created a ton of energy with the way they played in doubles and that set an outstanding tempo for the match.”
All three of Gustavus’s doubles pairs broke serve early and were able to hang on late in the set. Mya Smith-Dennis and Motasem Al-Houni were the first to finish, giving the Gusties a 1-0 lead after edging Jake Humphreys and Byron Balkin 8-6 at No. 1.
Gustavus’s No. 3 duo of Marcel Gyswyt and Andres Saenz Hoyo followed suit with an 8-6 win of their own, beating Kevin Friend and Cam Laktash to put the Gusties up 2-0.
The final doubles point came in a hard-fought battle between Joey MacGibbon and Juan Luis Chu and Ben Shklyar and Martin Beck at the No. 2 position. In the end, MacGibbon and Chu found a way to prevail with a 9-7 win, giving the Black and Gold a doubles sweep and a 3-0 lead.
Gustavus rode the momentum into singles where Brad Entwistle put his squad within a point of a decision with a win at No. 6. Entwistle battled his way to a 7-5 opening set win, then cruised to the straight-set victory with a 6-1 win in the second.
“Brad had a fantastic day -- we have so much trust his game,” Valentini said about Entwistle. “He understands what he is trying to execute and he competed beautifully today. His opponent had firepower, but Brad just stayed the course and played his game. To get one on the board after taking all three doubles points really changes the dynamic of the match and that’s what we needed at that point.”
Although Gustavus was within a point of clinching the match following Entwistle’s win, UW-Whitewater began to turn momentum across the remaining courts. Chu, Smith-Dennis, and Grant Leisner had all dropped their second set after first-set wins and were battling in the third, while Al-Houni came back with a win in the second after dropping the first.
Sensing the need to deliver, senior Joe MacGibbon did just that. After taking set one 7-6 with a 7-4 win in the breaker, MacGibbon took control of the second set late and came away with the match-clinching 6-3 victory at No. 3.
The Trinity versus Gustavus final set for Sunday afternoon will be a rematch of last season’s regional championship held in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The Tigers came away with a 5-2 victory in that meeting, earning a trip to NCAA quarterfinals where their season came to an end with a 5-1 loss to Williams.