Sunday, October 1, 2023

W&M Men’s Tennis’s Storybook Run Ends in CAA Championship

W&M Men’s tennis team (Courtesy of William & Mary Athletics)

WILLIAMSBURG — Stories sometimes don’t have a fairy tale ending, and unfortunately that was the case on Sunday afternoon. After battling out of a 3-1 hole to draw even for the second time in as many days, William & Mary (W&M) could not replicate the magic of Saturday, falling valiantly in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship, 4-3, to University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) at the Millie West Tennis Facility.

After dropping the doubles point and less than 24 hours after rallying for a 4-3 win over Elon in the semifinals behind a trio of three-set singles wins, the Tribe (9-6) once again found itself with an uphill climb.

Sophomore George Davis briefly drew the Tribe even at one with a dominating win on court three, but the Seahawks (15-5) answered with victories at No. 4 and No. 6 to get the visitor to the brink of the title. Graduate student Lev Kazakov and senior Sebastian Quiros rallied from set deficits at No. 2 and No. 5 to draw the Tribe even at three and set the stage for court one.

The championship came down to the top spot where UNCW’s Bruno Caula and graduate student Brenden Volk were locked into a three-set tussle. Setting the stage for a script that not even Hollywood would write, Volk returned to W&M as graduate student in 2021 to pursue the CAA crown after his senior campaign, like many across the country, was cut short due to COVID-19. When the 2020 season prematurely ended, W&M was 2-0 in league play and likely headed toward the league’s top seed and a run at its first CAA title since 2015.

After winning the opening set, Caula had a chance to serve out the match, leading 5-4 in the second. Volk displayed the heart of a champion and fought to break back and even the set at five. He eventually pulled it out in a tiebreaker, winning four of the final five points, to force a decisive third set.

Unfortunately, the storybook ending would not be written for the Green and Gold. Even at three in the third, Caula won the match’s final three games to clinch the championship for UNCW.

How It Happened

– UNCW captured the doubles point to open the match with wins at No. 2 and No. 3
– After a Seahawks win at No. 2, the Tribe’s top team of Volk and Davis won the final four games over the nationally-ranked pair of Daniel Groom and Caula to pull W&M even. The No. 66-ranked team in the country broke W&M’s serve to go up 3-2, but the Tribe broke right back and won four games in a row on the way to a 6-3 triumph. Volk and Davis finished the year at 8-5 thanks to their second win in as many days.
– With the match tied at 5 on line three, UNCW’s pairing of Leonardo Sprovieri and Gabe Hurtado won the final two games to capture the doubles point, 7-5, over seniors Finbar Talcott and Chen Ruo.
– On court three, Davis briefly tied the match with a dominant 6-2, 6-2 in over UNCW senior Daniel Groom. The Tribe sophomore ran his record to 8-6 overall and 6-3 at No. 3.
– On the other side, UNCW won four first sets in singles and increased its lead to 3-1 with wins at No. 4 and No. 6.
– The Tribe slowly rallied as Volk (No. 1), Kazakov (No. 2) and Quiros (No. 5) won second sets to draw even in their matches.
– After dropping the first set to Gabe Hurtado, 7-5, Quiros responded to take the second, 6-3, winning the final two games. In the third, the Tribe senior won the final five games on his way to a 6-1 win to close the gap to 3-2. Quiros closed out the season at 8-6 overall and 5-2 at No. 5.
– Like Quiros, Kazakov dropped the opening set, 6-4, to Davide Innocenti, but answered to win the second, 6-3.  Even at four in the third, Kazakov held serve and then broke Innocenti in the 10th game to tie the match at three thanks to a 6-4 win. The graduate student wrapped up his Tribe career with an 8-3 mark at No. 2 singles and picked up his second three-set win in as many days at the championship.
– The match came down to a battle at the top spot. After UNCW’s Caula won the opening set, 6-4, Volk broke Caula trailing 5-4 in the second and then pulled out a tiebreaker win, claiming four of the final five points, 7-6 (4). In the third set, Volk rallied from an early break deficit and pulled even at three. The UNCW junior won the final three games of the set to clinch the championship for the Seahawks.

W&M Men’s tennis team (Courtesy of William & Mary Athletics)

#1 UNCW 4, #3 William & Mary 3

No. 1 – Bruno Caula (UNCW) def. Brenden Volk (W&M) – 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3
No. 2 – Lev Kazakov (W&M) def. Davide Innocenti (UNCW) – 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
No. 3 – George Davis (W&M) def. Daniel Groom (UNCW) – 6-2, 6-2
No. 4 – Bekhzod Rasamatov (UNCW) def. Finbar Talcott (W&M) – 2-6, 6-2 6-2
No. 5 – Sebastian Quiros (W&M) def. Gabe Hurtado (UNCW) – 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
No. 6 – Michael Copeland (UNCW) def. Chen Ruo (W&M) – 6-4, 6-2
Finishing Order: 3, 6, 4, 5, 2, 1*

No. 1 – Volk/Davis (W&M) def. #66 Groom/Caula (UNCW) – 6-3
No. 2 – Rasamatov/Dillion Gooch (UNCW) def. Kazakov/Quiros (W&M) – 6-1
No. 3 – Leonardo Sprovieri/Hurtado (UNCW) def. Talcott/Ruo (W&M) – 7-5
Finishing Order: 2, 1, 3*

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