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Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis opens spring season with weekend sweep

Vanderbilt+Tennis+players+face-off+against+other+SEC+teams+at+the+Commodore+Scramble+on+Saturday%2C+September+30%2C+2017.+Photo+by+Hunter+Long
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Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis opens spring season with weekend sweep

Vanderbilt Tennis players face-off against other SEC teams at the Commodore Scramble on Saturday, September 30, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long

Vanderbilt Tennis players face-off against other SEC teams at the Commodore Scramble on Saturday, September 30, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Vanderbilt Tennis players face-off against other SEC teams at the Commodore Scramble on Saturday, September 30, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Vanderbilt Tennis players face-off against other SEC teams at the Commodore Scramble on Saturday, September 30, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long

Riley McCormick

Vanderbilt Tennis started its spring season with a win at home last Friday over MTSU that was decided by Nashville freshman George Harwell in a 6-2 match.

The Commodores went on to defeat Michigan State and Lipscomb each by a score of 6-1 to go unbeaten on the weekend.

Vanderbilt came into match after a successful weekend at the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, TX, in which Tate Allwardt, Max Freeman, Harwell, and Alex Ross all went undefeated.

Sophomore Billy Rowe said that the team made major strides in the winter months.

“I worked a lot on my backhand over the offseason to improve it,” Roe said on Friday. “And the whole team worked on similar, small tweaks to their game. Unlike last season, our number two guy (Cameron Klinger) isn’t injured anymore, so that’s a big source of optimism for us.”

MTSU went into the match with a 2-0 record with sweeps over Austin Peay and UT-Chattanooga, but were defeated 4-0 last year by the Commodores. Interestingly, they did not have a single American player on their roster.

The men’s tennis spring home opener began with three doubles matches. MTSU won two of them, giving them one point in the total score.

Freeman and Klinger took the court for Vanderbilt first and were well-matched against their opponents. Freeman, the freshman, displayed good vision in the sixth game when he saw several opponents’ over-hit balls go over the line without being touched. Klinger’s height gave him an advantage when playing up from deflecting shots.

The Commodores fought through a see-saw of an 8th game, with a shot from Klinger off the net completing a 40-all rally. Freeman was forced to make a tough return off a low bounce on the next play, however, allowing the Blue Raiders to pull ahead 5-3. MTSU went ahead early 30-love in the following game, but the Vanderbilt players ended up coming all the way back to make it 30-30. The Commodores would win the final two games, and seemed like they had enough momentum to win the match in the second set, but play was cut short after the results came in from the other doubles matches.

Meanwhile, Lachlan McPhee and Billy Evans, the 36th-best doubles pair in the nation per the ITA, were fighting a battle of their own on the adjacent court. MTSU was leading 5-3, but the Vanderbilt duo won a 40-love eighth game to stay in the match. The Commodores had a 40-30 lead, but MTSU was able to win the set and the match off a tough serve that Vanderbilt’s McPhee returned into the net.

Harwell and Danny Valent were trailing 2-4, then rallied to make it 4-4 and stayed with the Blue Raiders to keep the set 5-5. The Blue Raiders would end up winning the match.

Vanderbilt fared better in singles, which a bystander familiar with collegiate tennis says is more reflective of a team’s ability.

Baker Newman defeated MTSU in another close 40-40 set to start off the match. He pulled ahead 40-love before lingering around enough to make it 40-30 before closing it out with a sharp angle shot that closed the set out to make the score 4-0. Newman would win both sets 6-2, a big point that tied the Commodores with MTSU 1-1

Valent is emerging as one of Vanderbilt’s top players. The senior won the Ohio Valley Regional tournament in singles, which qualified him for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) fall National Tournament. He was ranked 50th in the nation by the latest ITA singles poll. Valent crushed the competition in his first set 6-0, and was almost on track to repeat in the second until MTSU made a frustrating yet ultimately unsuccessful rally late to make it 6-2.

Chris Etch of MTSU defeated Vanderbilt’s Rowe in a close match. The first set was an inconclusive 7-5 in which Rowe battled out from several instances where his back was against the fence in match point situations. The second set was more one sided, with Etch winning 6-3.

Freeman faced MTSU’s Gian Issa in a close match on the far court. Issa won the first set 6-4, and the second in another spilt, 7-5 set, which forced a single-game playoff. Issa went up 40-love, but Freeman was at least able to even the score up to 40-30 before Issa won the point. The team score was now tied 3-3, and all eyes turned to the center court where MTSU’s Matt Rauch and Vanderbilt freshman Harwell were playing the deciding match.

Harwell, who won a DII-AA Tennessee state championship in 2015 with local prep school Montgomery Bell Academy, went up 4-1 on a controversial out-of-bounds call by the line judge. The pair proceeded traded points to make the score a comfortable 6-2.

Harwell made two athletic stretches to keep the ball in play in what would become the final set. After Rauch hit the ball out of bounds, Harwell was mobbed by his teammates.

“We’ve been working really hard over the off season,” Harwell said in between matches. “And I think we’re going to have a really solid year if we can put all the pieces together. We have a lot of experienced players and a lot of seniors playing the one and three spots.”

Tate Allwardt, who is a senior, said “I think it’s really a testament to how mature our freshmen are that we can have two of them playing out on the court so early this season.”

On Sunday, the Commodores defeated Lipscomb and Michigan State each by a final score of 6-1. The Commodores will return for more home matches February 10th.

 

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