Gritty effort ends in men’s tennis’ first loss

All good things must eventually come to an end — and for the Wake Forest men’s tennis team, the end to their perfect season came a little sooner than they had hoped for at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. With a shot at making the ITA National Indoor Championships on the line, it all came down to one match — and despite a strong effort from freshman Aws Laaribi, the Deacs walked away from the game against No. 20 Texas with a 4-3 loss on Jan. 26, their first of the season.

The weekend competition started much better for the Deacs, though. Taking part in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at Vanderbilt, Wake first faced off against No. 23 LSU, picking up a point early in the doubles competition.

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Media Relations

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Media Relations

From there, the Deacs kept pounding away, cruising to a 4-1 victory on the backs of solid performances from senior Adam Lee, freshman Maksim Kan and sophomore Pedro Dumont.

“We had four great teams playing, all top-25,” Lee said. “Competition was obviously really strong. I think the game against LSU was relatively good. I think it should have been over quicker than it was. I’m glad that we played those guys first because of nerves.”

At the end of the first day of competition, Wake’s next opponent was revealed: the No. 20 Texas Longhorns.  A win over Texas would mean a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championships, a challenge that the Deacs were more than ready for. “Obviously we were excited to play Texas,” head coach Tony Bresky said. “We kind of had a feeling that we were going to play them, even though they were the lowest- ranked team out of the four of us.”

Dropping two out of the three doubles matches in the start of the match, the Deacs entered singles play already down 0-1. After two singles matches, that lead got even deeper as Wake sat at 0-3. But Lee, sophomore Jon Ho and Kan rallied to bring the score even at 3-3 and give the Deacons a chance to win the game. With the final decision resting on the matchup of Laribi and junior Clement Homs of Texas, the two battled it out to a dramatic tiebreak, with Laaribi eventually falling 2-6, 6-4, 6-5 (7-3). Despite the loss, Bresky was content with the performances he saw.

“In singles the guys came out and competed really hard, they were prepared,” Bresky said. “We got down 3-0, lost two straight set matches and came back to tie the match up at 3-3. They only have five courts which I think in that situation was unfortunately a little to our disadvantage. Aws, being a true freshman, was playing a guy who was a 21, 22-year-old junior who has a lot of experience. Aws handled the situation really well and he put himself in a position to win and had tons of chances obviously with four match points. He stepped up and played really well at those points but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

The team is obviously disappointed that they didn’t qualify for the ITA National Indoor Championships — but they’re already started looking towards the future.

“I know from my standpoint, hopefully from theirs, that we’re more motivated than ever. We all feel that our team is good enough and we should be playing in the National Indoor Championships,” Bresky said. “Unfortunately we’re not because it didn’t go our way against Texas. We also realize that it’s a long season and we have a great schedule.”

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