Navy Rallies to Defeat Army; Advance to Tournament Final
April 20, 2013
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In another classic match between the two service academy teams that took well over four hours to complete, the Navy men's tennis team rallied from several deficits to defeat Army, 4-3, Saturday at Drumlins Tennis Club in Syracuse, N.Y., in the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament.
Saturday's result was a turnaround from the 4-3 decision won by Army when the teams met just 13 days ago in West Point. Today's victory by the fourth-seeded Mids (17-11) over the top-seeded Black Knights (16-7) moves Navy into Sunday's championship match of the league tournament. There, the Mids will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal match between No. 2 Lehigh and No. 3 Bucknell. Tomorrow's Noon match will be played either on the Colgate campus or, if poor weather is expected, back at the Drumlins Tennis Club.
"Redemption is the word of the day," said Navy head coach John Officer. "We never got down; we just kept fighting."
The first meeting of the season saw Army jump out to a 3-0 lead over Navy before hanging on for the 4-3 win. Today's match was close to starting out the same way as the Black Knights won the doubles point and the initial singles match to be completed to take a 2-0 lead.
Winning the doubles point has proven to be crucial in recent Army-Navy series history. The team winning the doubles point had gone on to win 24 of the last 27 matches between the teams. However, two of those three eventual losses by the team earning the doubles point have occurred in the last four years, including one season ago when the Mids accomplished the feat.
Peter McDonald (So., Chapel Hill, N.C.) placed Navy's first team point on the scoreboard with his 6-4, 6-4 win over Rashad Shelton at No. 2 singles, then Calvin Mark (So., Union City, Calif.) tied the match at 2-2 thanks to his 6-4, 6-4 win over Asika Isoh at No. 1 singles.
Army regained the lead when Peter Sienko defeated Nicholas Gutsche (Sr., Sarasota, Fla.) by scores of 6-2, 6-4 at No. 5 singles, but the team score would soon tied at 3-3 as Blake Daniel (So., Overland Park, Kan.) won a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 decision over Alex Van Velzer at No. 4 singles.
"Calvin just dominated his match today," said Officer. "He served exceptionally well. Peter played an excellent match. Blake showed a lot with breaking right back after losing his serve late in the third set."
The last match on the courts in the first dual of the season between the teams saw Army's Caison Best outlast Navy's Austin Jones (Fr., Dallas, Texas), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, at No. 3 singles to give the Black Knights the victory. The same two players would again square off in today final match to determine the outcome.
Jones won the first set over Best by the score of 6-2, then held a match point in the second set before it slipped way. Best would win the second set by the count of 7-5, then took a 5-3 lead in the third set. Jones broke Best to pull to within 5-4, then held serve to knot the set at 5-5. Best held serve to take a 6-5 lead, but Jones matched Best's serving performance to tie the set at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker.
Jones quickly took a 6-1 advantage in the tiebreaker that lasted until a player reached seven points and held at least a two-point lead. Best held serve twice to close to within 6-3, then won a break of serve to make the score 6-4. Jones served again and this time put a backhand away to end the marathon match.
"Austin showed so much character out there," said Officer. "He had a match point in the second set and let it get away from him. A lot of guys could have been discouraged with that, but he kept fighting. He served really well down the stretch."
Navy will be playing Sunday to win its second-straight league crown and sixth title in the last seven years. To do so, the Mids will have to defeat either a Lehigh team that posted a 5-2 win over Navy last week or a Bucknell squad that the Mids defeated by the score of 5-2 the first time the teams played each other this year.
"One of the things I love about this team," said Officer, "is that they are very relaxed under pressure. They do not get phased by the moment. They just keep going after it. I'm very proud of them.
"We have some unfinished business left for us tomorrow. One of the things we do here at Navy is play for championships, and we are excited to do just that Sunday."
Navy def. Army, 4-3
Doubles -- Army wins the doubles point (1, 2)
1 - Asika Isoh / Harrison McCormack (Army) d. Calvin Mark / Peter McDonald, 8-5
2 - Rashad Shelton / Austin McCasin (Army) d. Blake Daniel / Nicholas Gutsche, 8-6
3 - Austin Jones / Alex Gaines (Navy) led Peter Sienko / Henry Jang-Milsten, 7-6, unfinished
Singles (6, 2, 1, 5, 4, 3)
1 - Calvin Mark (Navy) d. Asika Isoh, 6-4, 6-4
2 - Peter McDonald (Navy) d. Rashad Shelton, 6-4, 6-4
3 - Austin Jones (Navy) d. Caison Best, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4)
4 - Blake Daniel (Navy) d. Alex Van Velzer, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5
5 - Peter Sienko (Army) d. Nicholas Gutsche, 6-2, 6-4
6 - Harrison McCormack (Army) d. Alex Gaines, 6-0, 6-3