ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - The top-ranked Columbus State University men's tennis team made a furious comeback in singles play to top 20th-ranked Midwestern State 4-1 Wednesday in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals. The tournament is being held at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
After falling behind 1-0 after doubles, the Cougars won four of the six singles matches to advance back to the national semifinals for the third consecutive season and for the fifth time in program history.
"Today showed this team's heart," said head coach Evan Isaacs. "Credit to Midwestern State for coming out of the gates and grabbing the opening point. They pushed us to the limit, but the guys responded. Hopefully, we can learn a few lessons from today and apply them in tomorrow's match."
Midwestern State (20-6) took the first result at third doubles with Matei Avram and Fabien Asdrubal falling 3-6. The Cougars were able to even things up after a ranked showdown at first doubles. Top-ranked Alvaro Regalado and Zach Whaanga battled the 24th-ranked duo of Alberto Diaz and Ben Westwick. Regalado and Whaanga improved to 7-1 against nationally ranked opponents after recording the 6-4 victory.
In the swing match, KP Pannu and Tommaso Schold were in the driver's seat on a few occasions before eventually falling 7-5 in the tiebreak to give the Mustangs the doubles point.
Needing to record four victories to keep their season alive, the Cougars went to work. CSU won the first set in all six matches to immediately put pressure on MSU. Twenty-fifth-ranked Regalado evened things up after taking third singles 6-4, 6-3. Soon after, it was Schold who notched a victory. The freshman took the match at the sixth position 7-5, 6-1. The third Columbus State point came at fourth singles where 54th-ranked Arnold Kokulewski won in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.
The remaining three matches went into decisive third sets. Needing just one victory to move on, 67th-ranked Avram won the race to the finish among his teammates. Avram took down Alberto Diaz 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 at fifth singles to ensure the match victory.
In a showdown between the top-two ranked singles players in the nation, top-ranked Pannu was just one game away from downing second-ranked Angel Palacios. Pannu was up 6-3, 2-6, 5-3 when play was called. At second singles, 66th-ranked Asdrubal was just underway in the third set in a 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 match.
Columbus State will take on 15th-ranked Hawaii Hilo Thursday in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals at 1 p.m. UH Hilo, who swept fifth-ranked USC Aiken in the quarterfinals, will be making its first appearance in the national semifinals.