The Salisbury University men’s tennis team saw its season come to an end with a 5-4 defeat at the hands of rival Christopher Newport on Tuesday.
It was a semifinal matchup in the Capital Athletic Conference playoffs and – for CNU – the victory sends them to the CAC Championship match.
For the second game in a row, the Sea Gulls (16-5, 6-2 CAC) would have to face a Captains’ team (13-10, 6-2) that barely lost in the regular season finale. The Sea Gulls edged them by a score a 5-4, but seeing Salisbury on their court before a playoff match gave CNU some experience that they used to their advantage.
“Seeing us just a few days ago definitely worked to their advantage,” Sea Gulls’ junior Eric Spangler said. “They had never played on these courts before and we know the ins and outs, but they definitely seemed more ready to play this time.”
Spangler was the only Sea Gull that won both his matches Tuesday. The Captains got up early on Salisbury winning 2-1 in doubles before notching three single match victories to give them the overall win.
“It’s a tough result, but I’m extremely proud of the guys and how we fought and how we played,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Randy Halfpap said. “It was by far one of the most exciting college matches I’ve been a part of.”
After losing the doubles portion of the meeting, Salisbury knew they would have to play tough to win at least four matches in singles competition.
Senior Demetri Vrahnos and junior Shanon Gunther were the only other Sea Gulls, besides Spangler, to get victories one-on-one.
After eight matches had been played, the score was tied at four with all eyes on freshman Sean Ngo.
It was déjà vu for the Sea Gulls, for it was the second game in a row the match would rely on the freshman to capture a win away from CNU.
“It’s amazing how five days ago we had the same type of match, same score, but unfortunately a different result,” Halfpap said.
Ngo had defeated his opponent the game before and sent the Sea Gulls to the CAC tournament with the number two seed. This game however, would be different.
CNU’s Arttu Fiva won the first set, 6-3, before Ngo came back to capture a 7-5 win in the second set – which forced a third.
Ngo had struggled early on in this match, but managed to come back and give Salisbury one last shot at victory. The freshman took a 4-2 lead in the final set, but Fiva was able to break serve twice and wound up winning the final set, and the match, 6-4.
“I thought I played pretty well the last two sets, but it didn’t work out, and now we’ve got to get ready for next season,” Ngo said.
The loss not only ends the Sea Gulls’ season, but it also snaps a five game winning streak Salisbury had coming into the game.
Salisbury now has to deal with the losses of seniors Vrahnos, Daniel Albers, and Adam Goldberger. All three played in Tuesday’s competition.
“In the blink of an eye a match is over and the last match for three college guys,” Halfpap said. “They’ve got to look back on four years of playing and see how they had great careers.”
The men’s team will now throw its support to the women who will also play CNU in the semifinals matchup on Wednesday, but Halfpap and the rest of the team have already started preparing for next season.
“Our record was really good this season, and we did what we needed to do,” Spangler said. “We need to see what we did well, have a positive attitude and we’ll be fine.”