EDINBORO, Pa. – A young Edinboro men's tennis team defeated local rival Mercyhurst for the third time in less than a month, only this time a trip to Denver, Colorado, and a berth in the NCAA Division II Men's Tennis Round of 16. The Fighting Scots, the second-seed, posted a hard-earned 5-3 win over the sixth-seeded Lakers on Sunday afternoon in the Atlantic Region II Championship. Edinboro improved to 23-3 and will now compete in the Round of 16 for the second time in the last three years on May 18-21. Mercyhurst's season comes to a close at 11-9.
"I knew it was going to be a war," related head coach Lee Underwood. "It's always tough to beat someone three times, and Mercyhurst is always tough. A year ago we reached the final 32 before losing to the number seed Bluefield State in the regional final. With a team of seven freshmen and two sophomores, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. This is real special for me. We're happy.
"What was crucial was coming out on doubles at 2-1," noted the veteran coach. "Vitor then took control at number one singles."
Eight days earlier the Fighting Scots, with a lineup of nothing but freshmen and sophomores, defeated Mercyhurst, 5-1, in the PSAC Championships finals, and they recorded a 6-3 decision on April 13. This time around the match was much closer. Edinboro would win two of the three doubles, but the Lakers came back to win the first set in four of the six singles matches.
Vitor Albanese, who was named the PSAC Athlete of the Year for the second straight year earlier in the week, gave Edinboro a 3-1 advantage with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Nenad Terzic at number one singles. The sophomore improved to 31-3 with the win.
Mercyhurst's Joaquin Aguilera would pick up a straight sets win at number two singles, but Mauricio Santos (21-9) countered that with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Conor McCooey at number three singles.
The Lakers closed the gap to 4-3 with a win in three sets by Andoni Marquez at number five singles. Moments later, however, with Mercyhurst close to picking up a win at number four singles, freshman Kevin Mboko put the closing touches on a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Ross Molinari at number six singles to clinch the regional title. The win sent the Edinboro squad into a frenzy, as they mobbed Mboko following the winning point.
Underwood may have had a premonition that Mboko would be thrust into that role. "Earlier in the week, we practiced celebrating the championship, and it was Kevin who we rushed," Underwood admitted. "Last week it was Camilo (Moncayo), and he was the fifth point."
This marked the third straight year that Edinboro had reached a regional final. As Underwood mentioned, the Fighting Scots fell to Bluefield State in the Atlantic Region I championship match. In 2014, Edinboro earned its first-ever NCAA tournament berth and came away with the Atlantic Region II title after beginning as the sixth seed. They went on to lose to eventual national champion West Florida in the Round of 16. A year ago, Mercyhurst competed in the Round of 16 after winning the Atlantic Region II crown.
NCAA DIVISION II ATLANTIC REGION II CHAMPIONSHIP
EDINBORO 5, MERCYHURST 3
1. Vitor Albanese/Camilo Moncayo (EU) def. Travis Beck/Nenad Terzik (MU) – 8-3
2. Daniel Fernandez/Mateus Santos (EU) def. Andoni Marquez/Conor McCooey (MU) – 8-6
3. Joaquin Aguilera/Dusan Cerny (MU) def. Kevin Mboko/Mauricio Santos (EU) – 8-6
1. Vitor Albanese (EU) def. Nenad Terzic (MU) – 7-5, 6-2
2. Joaquin Aguilera (MU) def. Camilo Moncayo (EU) – 6-4, 6-4
3. Mauricio Santos (EU) def. Conor McCooey (MU) – 6-3, 6-1
4. Travis Beck (MU) vs. Mateus Santos (EU) -- 6-3, 3-6, 5-2 unfinished
5. Andoni Marquez (MU) def. Daniel Fernandez (EU) – 6-3, 3-6, 6-1
6. Kevin Mboko (EU) def. Ross Molinari (MU) – 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
ORDER OF FINISH: Doubles 1, 3, 2; Singles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
RECORDS: Edinboro – 23-3; Mercyhurst – 11-9