Fourth in the nation

Paul Martucci

Villanova boasts some of the nation’s best athletic programs. The undeniable success of the men’s basketball team provided the campus with a unified cause to rally behind for several months. But, as surprising as it may seem, the men’s basketball team was not the school’s only athletic program to crack the top five.

This past weekend, the Villanova club tennis team traveled to Texas to compete in the USA Team Tennis National Campus Championship. Sixty four club tennis teams from around the country contended for the right to hail itself as the club tennis national champion.

By the end of the weekend after seven competitive games, the Wildcats had finished a dream run through the tournament, taking fourth place overall.

In only its third year of existence, the club tennis ‘Cats had failed to advance into the top 16-team bracket, otherwise known as the “Gold Bracket,” in each of its first two campaigns. This year, however, proved to be a season filled with unprecedented feats for the club team.

The surprises began at the Middle States Tournament. Featuring teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the competition level at the tournament was high.

“At Middle States, we weren’t sure what to expect because we hadn’t done that great in the past,” freshman Andy Ferens said. “But we ended up beating TCNJ, Delaware and Philadelphia Biblical to get to the semifinals.”

From there, ‘Nova had to face Penn State – twice. Defeating the Penn State “Blue” team, 26-19, the ‘Cats had advanced to the championship to challenge the Penn State “White” team. Despite trailing late, Mike Sindoni and Priya Narahari won their doubles match, 6-2, to earn the 22-21 victory and the Middle States championship.

After the team’s most successful regular season, it entered a late season tournament at Penn State. Expectations were high, based on the success over the course of the season, and the results lived up to the hype.

After winning its pool, Villanova went on to beat Lehigh in the semifinal and Penn State White again in the championship game.

“It was a great win,” Ferens said, “because although we beat Penn State at Middle States, they had beaten us in the regular season.”

Running on the momentum of by far Villanova club tennis’s best season ever, the ‘Cats entered the final postseason 64-team tournament as the top seed in its four team pool, matched up with Western Washington University, Ohio State and Georgia Tech. The winner of the pool advanced to the Gold Bracket. In the final game of pool play, Villanova and Georgia Tech squared off at 2-0, with the winner earning a trip to the top bracket.

“It was a really close match the whole time, but after losing mixed doubles we went into overtime,” Ferens said. “We took the lead in overtime, but Georgia Tech again tied the game.” This brought the contest to a “Super Tiebreaker.” In that level, the ‘Cats fell behind the Yellow Jackets, 3-1, but Sindoni and Narahari scored six consecutive points to clinch the win.

In the Gold Bracket, the Wildcats first paired up with the Michigan “Blue” team. In a close match, the Wildcats and the Wolverines played to the last game, but Villanova prevailed after Carl Fenzl and Narahari’s doubles win. In the following match, Cornell played the ‘Cats to an even tighter match, but in the late night game, Villanova squeaked into the next round by one point, winning 26-25.

“It was a really dramatic match,” Ferens said. “Going into mixed doubles, they had a one game lead, which meant that whoever won the mixed doubles match was going to win and move on to the Final Four. Plus, it was under the lights, and there was a lot riding on it.”

Advancing to the program’s first ever Final Four, the Wildcats first matched up with two-time defending champion Texas A&M. Despite being 5-0 up to this point in the tournament ‘Nova fell to the powerhouse Aggies.

Against the Michigan “Maize” team, the Wildcats, fatigued from playing six games over the past three days in the dry Texas heat, moved a little more slowly than usual. Despite the fatigue, the ‘Cats fought to bring the game into overtime. In overtime, ‘Nova was unable to keep pace with the Wolverines and fell, 24-18, closing out a fourth place finish.

The general consensus amongst the Wildcats after the tournament was a resoundingly positive one. The fourth place finish was, by far, the club tennis team’s best finish in its three year history.

“We expected to do well,” Ferens said, “but we didn’t expect to get as far as we really did.”

Through a sense of team community and a focus on having fun while still being competitive, the ‘Cats have had a dream season.

“If you think about how many schools have club tennis teams in the United States,” Ferens said, “being No. 4 is something to be really proud about.”