Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (21-4) hosted their annual Senior Day in which they honored three athletes before taking on the visiting Georgia State Panthers. After another dominant performance in doubles, the Blue Raiders used a good effort in the singles portion to capture their 21st win of the season over the Panthers by a score of 4-1.
Middle Tennessee opened doubles play by dominating all three matches. Gonzalo Morrell Raschiatore and Miguel Negre Fernandez won first at the No. 2 match by a 6-2 count, while Jan Porteset and Gian Issa followed that up with a 6-4 win of their own at the No. 3 match.
The Blue Raiders have dominated teams all season long in doubles play, and Saturday’s match was no different. It’s interesting, because the pairings MTSU has rolled with weren’t even the ones they planned on during the offseason.
“I knew at the beginning of the year that we were going to be good in doubles,” said Head Coach Jimmy Borendame. “What’s funny is the combinations that are playing were not even some of our top ones at the beginning of the season … it’s been interesting to see how (the teams) have evolved.”
In singles play, the Blue Raiders used more solid play to clinch the match. Issa continued his excellent year and climb up the all-time wins record at MTSU with a straight-set victory by a score of 6-2, 6-3. Luis Morillo Diaz followed with a 6-2, 6-0 win of his own to put Middle within a single point of winning the match.
After Fernandez fell in his match, Chris Edge battled back after losing his first set 6-2 to force a decisive third set. It went in MTSU’s favor, as he dominated the final set by a score of 6-2 to give the Blue Raiders the 4-1 win over the Panthers.
With the win, Middle Tennessee will now head into the Conference USA Tournament with a nine-game winning streak. That’s a feeling that Borendame is appreciative of, but he isn’t surprised by.
“It’s great, we knew Georgia State was a very tough team,” Borendame said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum heading into the conference tournament.”
The players carry the same mindset, as they believe that their work is far from finished.
“We know what our goal is, winning the conference has been our goal since the season started,” Fernandez said. “We never thought we wouldn’t be capable of getting there … that’s the ultimate goal, winning conference and getting to nationals.”
Although his time at Middle Tennessee didn’t get off to a roaring start, Fernandez used Senior Day to reflect on what has been a very productive career as a Blue Raider.
“It has gone by so fast, and I still remember the first day I landed on the plane,” Fernandez said. “I learned a lot as a player, as a person and as a student … you see a lot of players that have been through a lot of the same struggles that you have been through and you see how everyone gets better.”
“It’s impossible to not enjoy it.”
The man in charge knows how far Fernandez has come, and is incredibly proud of the Palma De Mallorca, Spain, native.
“In my career, I’m proudest of Miguel’s development,” Borendame said. “A lot of people didn’t think he was good enough for our program, and he has proved that he is, so that’s pretty cool.”
As Issa and Porteset were also honored, Borendame had a chance to reflect on what those two meant to the program as well.
“They’ve evolved as players and athletes,” Borendame said. “Look at Gian’s record, the guy is top 10 in all-time wins … (Jan) has only been with us for a year, but he’s really been able to jump into our team chemistry right away. He’s very mature and he figured out his role on the team.”
The Blue Raiders will be back in action on Apr. 20 when they open their play in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.
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