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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Give me liberty and give me death: Men’s Tennis loses to Liberty in NIT finals

Vanderbilt fought through injuries and ineligibilities to have a shot at the NIT title in an otherwise disappointing season.
Vanderbilt+Mens+Tennis+beats+UC+Davis+to+advance+to+the+finals+of+the+Universal+Tennis+NIT+on+May+19%2C+2023+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis beats UC Davis to advance to the finals of the Universal Tennis NIT on May 19, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics)

After going 8-18 on the season, Men’s Tennis was fortunate to be invited anywhere beyond the Golden Dores. That made their invitation to the first-ever Universal Tennis NIT an easy acceptance.

The Commodores—the No. 1 seed in the tournament—took to the courts alongside Army, Denver, Liberty, Reinhardt, The Citadel, UC Davis and UC San Diego.

Despite top seed status, the path to a championship would not be easy. Jeremie Casabon and Siim Troost—the team’s top-ranked doubles pair—were ruled ineligible to compete by the NCAA because of next week’s NCAA Doubles Championship. Marcus Ferreira, Connor Robb-Wilcox and Paul Wang also missed the tournament due to injury.

That left Vanderbilt with only five players fit to compete. As such, the Commodores were forced to forfeit one of three doubles matches as well as a team point in the singles matches every round. 

NIT first round vs. Reinhardt University: Thursday, May 18

The first round followed a different format from the rest of the tournament as each doubles match counted for its own team point. Vanderbilt’s pairs of Joubert Klopper / Macsen Sisam and Nathan Cox / Michael Ross swept their competition 6-0 and gave the Commodores an early 2-0 advantage.

Cox dropped his opening singles set to open the round back up, but another Klopper sweep and a Ross victory kept the Eagles from making things too interesting. With a final score of 4-1, Vanderbilt would advance to the semifinals to play UC Davis after the latter bested Army by the same margin.

NIT semifinals vs. UC Davis: Friday, May 19

Despite starting with a 1-0 disadvantage, Vanderbilt clawed its way to a doubles victory with another strong outing by Ross/Cox and Klopper/Sisam. That secured a team point for the Commodores that tied the round 1-1 due to the forfeited singles point.

Freshman Mitchell Deames was the first Commodore to taste defeat as he fell to experienced senior Andras Necz 6-4 then 6-2. UC Davis had better luck with its freshmen as Constantinos Djakouris of Nicosia, Cyprus, beat Cox 6-2 in the opening set. Cox fought back hard to send the match to a third set, but the young Louisianan couldn’t find the energy to finish strong.

Facing a 3-1 round deficit. Vanderbilt would need to execute perfectly to overcome the play of its freshmen. Ross restored life to the Commodore cause as he clinched his match in two sets. After choking away the second set, Sisam came back against Lucas Bollinger and secured a narrow 6-2 victory that evened the team points.

Having traded the first two sets 6-3 and 3-6, the fate of both teams would come down to a final set faceoff between Klopper and Ryan Torres. Experience carried the day. At the end of the set, the Klopper—the senior all the way from Bloemfontein, South Africa—stood victorious. Vanderbilt would advance.

Final results for the matches were as follows:

Singles:

Djakouris (UCD) defeated Cox 6-2, 0-6, 6-2

Klopper (VU) defeated Torres 6-3, 3-6, 6-2

Ross (VU) defeated Sam De Vries 7-5, 6-4

Sisam (VU) defeated Lucas Bollinger 6-2, 1-6, 6-4

Necz (UCD) defeated Deames 6-4, 6-2

Mitchell Davis (UCD) won by forfeit

Doubles:

Ross/Cox (VU)defeated Davis/Necz 6-2

Klopper/Sisam (VU) defeated Torres/Bollinger 6-3

De Vries/Djakouris (UCD) won by forfeit

NIT finals vs. Liberty: Saturday, May 20

As if the obstacle of overcoming one forfeited team point was not enough, misfortune struck the Commodores again at the worst possible moment. Deames—who had been playing on a hurt ankle all weekend—aggravated his injury beyond the point of competitive viability. Vanderbilt would enter the finals with only four players, a forfeited doubles match and an 0-2 disadvantage in team points before they hit a single serve.

Cox/Ross battled back and forth with Josh Wilson and Christiaan Worst in the doubles match on court one. With the match tied 5-5, the horn sounded and play stopped. Their teammates on court two could not hold up their end of the bargain.

Klopper/Sisam—after going 2-0 in doubles prior—fell short to the duo of Deji Thomas-Smith and Luis Felipe Miguel by the tune of 6-3. With the doubles match forfeit, Liberty took the doubles point and held a 3-0 lead over Vanderbilt as the teams entered singles competition.

The Commodores would have to win all four singles matches to clinch the NIT championship. Ross gave the team hope with a quick 6-2, 6-2 victory over Thomas-Smith that narrowed the round to 3-1. Cox and Klopper also secured their first sets to set up the comeback, but it was to no avail.

Beau Pelletier—a senior out of Hilton Head, South Carolina—rose to become the savior Liberty University needed. After dispatching Sisam 6-0 in the opening set, he crushed the fifth-year senior 6-1 to end his Vanderbilt career.

At the same time, he ended Vanderbilt’s season. It would have taken a perfect performance to overcome the obstacles placed in the Commodores’ path. They nearly got there. Though a 10-18 record and a second round exit from the SEC Tournament were less than what was hoped for, one thing cannot be taken away from this team: they are the first runners-up in Men’s Tennis NIT history.

Final results for the matches were as follows:

Singles:

Cox (VU) faced Wilson 6-3, 3-4, unfinished

Klopper (VU) faced Worst 6-3, 2-3, unfinished

Ross (VU) defeated Thomas-Smith 6-2, 6-2

Pelletier (UCD) defeated Sisam 6-0, 6-1

Thando Longwe-Smith (UCD) won by forfeit

Miguel (UCD) won by forfeit

Doubles:

Cox/Ross (VU) faced Wilson/Worst, unfinished 5-5

Thomas-Smith/Miguel (UCD) defeated Klopper/Sisam 6-3

Zion Heaven/Thando Longwe-Smith (UCD) won by forfeit

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
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