FORT WORTH, Texas – Utah State men’s tennis ended No. 12 TCU’s 31-match home winning streak with a 4-3 win on the final day of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. With the win, the Aggies qualify for ITA National Team Indoors, hosted by Virginia next month.
Sophomore Samuel Serrano’s comeback win at the No. 5 singles spot clinched it for the Aggies, as the overall match was tied 3-3 with all eyes on one court.
“What an unbelievable effort from these guys,” said USU head coach James Wilson, “They deserve it. All the hard work they’ve put in from day one paid off today. They out-competed TCU in every way. I knew we would have a chance, and I tried to communicate that to the team. They obviously bought in and stuck together in the tough moments.”
The match started with doubles, and the Aggies were in a hole early as Serrano and junior Kai Wehnelt fell, 6-0, at the top spot in the lineup. Then, TCU’s Alex Rybakov and Guillermo Nuñez defeated senior Jack Swindells and sophomore Jonas Maier, 6-3, at the second position to clinch the doubles point. The final doubles match was left unfinished with the Horned Frogs having already claimed doubles.
Trailing 1-0, the Aggies headed to singles where Maier quickly evened the score with a 6-0, 6-1 win at the No. 6 spot against Gianni Mancini. At the No. 2 spot, No. 55 Nuñez was forced to retire after losing the first set, 7-5, and Swindells gave the Aggies a 2-1 lead. The Horned Frogs answered back with a pair of wins as Wehnelt fell at the No. 1 spot against Rybakov, 6-0, 6-1, and junior Jaime Barajas lost to No. 101 Jerry Lopez, 6-1, 6-3.
With the Aggies trailing 3-2, they needed to win both of the remaining singles matches, and they did, in dramatic fashion. First, freshman Sergiu Bucur was pushed to three sets by Reese Stalder at the No. 4 spot after splitting the first two, 6-1, 4-6. With the third set tied 5-5, Bucur earned a service break and claimed the match, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, paving the way for Serrano’s comeback. Serrano dropped his first set in a tiebreaker, 6-7 (1), and battled his way to a 6-4 win in the second set. Bucur’s match ended just before Serrano won the second set, so all eyes were on court 5 for the final set between Serrano and Trey Daniel. With the match on the line, Serrano rolled to a third-set victory, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-0, to clinch USU’s berth at the ITA Team Indoor Championship.
“The guys will remember this forever, and I’m so happy for them,” Wilson said.
The Aggies have a week off and will travel to Tucson, Ariz., to face former head coach Clancy Shields and Arizona on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. (MT).
Fans can follow USU’s men’s tennis team on Twitter @USUMensTennis, on Facebook at UtahStateMensTennis or on Instagram at USUTennis. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter at @USUAthletics, on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on Instagram at @USUAthletics.
Utah State 4, No. 12 TCU 3
1. Reese Stalder/Jerry Lopez (TCU) def. Kai Wehnelt/Samuel Serrano (USU) 6-0
2. Alex Rybakov/Guillermo Nuñez (TCU) def. Jonas Maier/Jack Swindells (USU) 6-3
3. Hudson Blake/Gianni Mancini (TCU) vs. Sergiu Bucur/Jaime Barajas (USU) 4-5, unfinished
1. Alex Rybakov (TCU) def. Kai Wehnelt (USU) 6-0, 6-1
2. Jack Swindells (USU) def. #55 Guillermo Nuñez (TCU) 7-5, retired
3. #101 Jerry Lopez (TCU) def. Jaime Barajas (USU) 6-1, 6-3
4. Sergiu Bucur (USU) def. Reese Stalder (TCU) 6-1, 4-6, 7-5
5. Samuel Serrano (USU) def. Trey Daniel (TCU) 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-0
6. Jonas Maier (USU) def. Gianni Mancini (TCU) 6-0, 6-1