Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis shows resilience in 4-1 victory over Middle Tennessee State

With the win today, the Commodores improved to a 4-1 record overall.

Panu+Virtanen+returns+a+serve+during+his+match-clinching+singles+victory.+

Photo courtesy of VUCommodores

Panu Virtanen returns a serve during his match-clinching singles victory.

Jack Hollier, Staff Writer

On Friday afternoon, the Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis team defeated the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 4-1. After losing to Florida State and then beating Indiana in the ITA Kickoff Weekend tournament, Vanderbilt continued non-conference play against in-state rival Middle Tennessee.

Middle Tennessee came out hot against the Commodores in their doubles matches, with all three Vanderbilt doubles teams finding themselves in early deficits. On court one, seniors Billy Rowe and Panu Virtanen remained close with Middle Tennessee’s Pavel Motl and Stijn Slump, but George Harwell and Max Freeman at second doubles and Christiaan Worst and Keaton Allwardt at third doubles fell quickly, 6-3 and 6-4 respectively, giving Middle Tennessee the doubles point.

In the huddle after doubles play, Head Coach Ian Duvehage’s words may have lit a fire under the Commodores, since Rowe, Harwell and Freeman both rushed to early leads in their singles matches after losing in doubles. But with a large Blue Raiders crowd behind them, Middle Tennessee refused to let Vanderbilt run away with any singles match.

At line one, Vanderbilt junior George Harwell dominated Middle Tennessee’s Tom Moonen in the first set. After triumphing over Moonen in several lengthy rallies, Harwell quickly took the first set 6-1 by breaking Moonen multiple times and capitalizing on unforced errors. In the second set, however, Moonen slowed down Harwell’s momentum and traded service games with him. But once the score in the second set reached 4-4, Harwell broke Moonen with several well-placed shots and finished out the set 6-4.

On court two, senior Billy Rowe played a near reversal of Harwell’s match on court one. In the first set, Rowe grappled with Middle Tennessee’s Chris Edge, staying even until the end of the set, when Rowe and Edge traded breaks. After Rowe’s break, he maintained his momentum to capture the first set 7-5. In the second set, Rowe rode that momentum to take the second set 6-2 over a visibly frustrated Edge. As the match continued, Rowe’s apparent speed and consistency prevailed when Edge made missteps.

At line four, sophomore Marcus Ferreira fell to 3-1 after being broken early by Middle Tennessee’s Max Rauch. But with a Vanderbilt crowd cheering loudly behind him, he turned the tide and stormed back to win the first set 7-5. Ferreira secured the first set after winning several long points, consistently getting to balls with his long reach and quickness. In the second set, Rauch refused to let the momentum of Ferreira’s comeback put him out of the match. They continued to battle closely through the second set, but Ferreira ultimately came out victorious 7-5, 3-1.

After losing in his doubles match, veteran Vanderbilt senior Panu Virtanen appeared to be falling again, this time to Middle Tennessee’s Francisco Rocha, after losing the first set. But in a complete reversal of momentum, Virtanen looked dominant as he opened the second set, attacking Rocha’s weaknesses and cutting down on unforced errors. His experience and tenacity enabled him to carry that momentum throughout the last two sets, winning his match 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and clinching the overall match against Middle Tennessee 4-1.

At three singles, Max Freeman played a lengthy match with Stijn Slump from Middle Tennessee. After losing the first set 4-6, Freeman made several put-away volley attempts at the net that helped him take the second set 6-3. Freeman was also leading in the third set 3-1 when the match was called. At line six, Joubert Klopper had begun his match but was trailing 2-3 when play ceased.

After overcoming several early deficits, the resilient Vanderbilt Commodores emerged victorious over Middle Tennessee. With the win, the team advances to 4-1 on the season as they continue non-conference play. On Feb. 7, the Commodores will face another in-state rival, the Memphis Tigers, at home at 3 p.m.