Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Middle Tennessee men’s tennis was back at it today for round number two of the MT Shootout, this time against the highly-touted Valparaiso Crusaders.
Coming into the day, MTSU knew they had their hands full. Valpo had lost just one match all year, coming from a Wisconsin team who beat the Blue Raiders earlier in the season 7-0.
Even with the odds stacked against them, the Blue Raiders found a way to win, taking the match 4-2.
Right from the start, however, it was the team in blue who began to assert their will. To Valpo’s surprise, MTSU’s Tom Moonen and Gonzalo Morell jumped out early in doubles No. 1. Going up against a tough combo in Jeffery Schorsch and Dave Bacalla, the Blue Raiders were too much and took the first match of the day, winning 6-3.
Over on court three, it was a similar story.
MTSU’s Nicolas Buitrago and Max Rauch again whipped up on Valpo’s Kyle Dunn and Gerrett Garner in a convincing 6-2 victory.
The two wins locked up the doubles point for MT, giving them a quick 1-0 lead headed into singles play.
The first match to finish occurred over on court one where Morell faced off against Schorsch. The Valpo ace got the best of Morell as he took the W in consecutive sets 6-2, 6-4.
The next group to end was on court three, where MTSU took back their swagger and pulled ahead in the overall score 2-1 after a strong performance from Negre who won in identical sets 6-3, 6-3.
MTSU didn’t take their foot off the gas at all.
In singles No. 5, MTSU’s Gian Issa fell in the first game against Valpo’s Kyle Dunn 6-2. The Blue Raider came back strong, taking it 6-1 and forcing a third game. With the roaring cheers of his teammates, Issa took care of business, winning the final game 6-3 and putting MTSU up 3-1 overall.
With their backs against the wall, the Crusaders stepped up and took singles No. 6. Brandon Ancona beat Buitrago 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Left standing was singles No. 4 bewteen MTSU’s Diaz and Valpo’s Bacalla. One court beside them was Blue Raider freshman Moonen and the Crusader’s Chad Kissel.
After dropping the first game 6-2, Moonen stayed poised. He would come back and take the next game by a score of 6-4, forcing a clinch-clinch final game three.
Although grueling and emotional, it was Moonen who came out triumphant and left his team roaring two courts down watching.
While most freshman experience stage fright when the stakes are high, Moonen seizes it.
“It’s just really excited to be honest,” Moonen said. “This is what we do it for. It’s fun to keep grinding there in the third set knowing that it all depends on it. You know it’s what we train for everyday.”
For head coach Jimmy Borendame, Saturday was his 99th win at MTSU. However, he takes it “day by day” and on this day, he prepared his men well.
“We knew Valpo was going to be a tough, tough match,” Borendame said. “I don’t know what their win/loss record is, but I know they’re a strong team and obviously, they’re going to come out with a lot of confidence.”
“So, I tried to prep the guys. Most of them don’t know where Valparaiso, Indiana is,” he said. “They’ve seen the results online and I’ve told them about [Valpo] and the guys came ready to play with a lot of emotion.”
MTSU plays again Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. vs. UAB at the Adams Tennis Complex.