By: Jackson Krug
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, VCU men’s tennis was up to its same old tricks, as they faced a Howard Bisons team that was still searching for its first win on the season. The Rams came into the matchup with a 5-4 record, coming off a solid road win against Temple 4-1 the Sunday before. Meanwhile, the match in Richmond would only be Howard’s third match of the season, as they lost their season opener 1-6 to Mt. St. Mary’s and then swept 0-7 to Navy. With two weeks of rest, the Bison were fresh and ready to come down to Richmond to face the defending A-10 Men’s Tennis champs.
At 1:00 pm, men’s doubles began the affair. The combo of Philip Mobius and Inigo Torre Martin easily won their match 6-1, while the pair of Stefan Petrovic and Timo Zgraggen won their match by a score of 6-0. Clearly, the depth of VCU showed early on in their test against Howard. However, on court 1, the fans in attendance were gifted a competitive matchup between Javier Amantegui and Rayane Stable of VCU against Roger Lyn and Karim Shokeir. Lyn, the #1 player for Howard, paired with the Egyptian savant Shokeir proved to be a formidable combination. Howard got off to a great start, taking a 4-3 lead and causing first-year coach Anthony Rossi to come over and settle down Amantegui and Stable. Clearly frustrated by their play, Rossi made sure to calm down his two best players. By this point, VCU had already won their other two doubles matches. Mobius, Torre Martin, Petrovic, and Zgraggen were standing on court 2, cheering on their fellow Rams after their blowout doubles victories. They knew their teammates needed some support, as Howard was on the verge of their first victory of the day.
Rossi’s small pep talk, alongside the emphatic shouts by the VCU team, triggered a shift in momentum. Amantegui and Stable would battle back, making crafty shots that came to the dismay of the opposing duo. Shokeir and Lyn started making mistakes by either failing to keep the ball in play or hitting the ball right into the net. Their sense of frustration was beginning to show: both players were very vocal when they missed their shots. Emotions were high, but Amantegui and Stable maintained their composure.The VCU pair went on to win three consecutive games and the set, thus ending the doubles match, by a score of 6-4. Both VCU fans and players were pumped up with adrenaline after this comeback win, setting the tone for the singles matches that were yet to commence.
The doubles matches were a foreshadowing of what was in store for the singles matches. Amantegui, Torre Martin, and Mobius all won their first sets 6-0. Between these three along with Stable and Zgraggen, the five would only cede 5 games total to the Bison. They combined for a 56-5 advantage in games, demonstrating the great depth that this VCU squad possesses. Yet, on Court 1 once again, the VCU crowd was afforded the rare opportunity to watch a competitive matchup between the aforementioned Lyn and the 6-3 Petrovic. The two were engaged in a back and forth battle, fast action on every point. Once again, Lyn would voice his frustration with every missed shot. Petrovic would calmly stick his finger outward, signaling that his opponent failed to keep the ball in play. Although Lyn was able to win some games, he was no match for the consistent play of Petrovic. After about an hour, it was a 6-3, 6-4 victory for Petrovic, and thus an all-around sweep of the Bison.
The 7-0 thumping is a big morale booster for a VCU squad that has had mixed results this season. Although each match won’t be as pleasant as this one was, it’s always rewarding to experience wins such as these. VCU will look to face Liberty University on Saturday, March 2 in Richmond.