In a riveting day of tennis on Saturday, the MSU men overcame various illnesses and knocked off the rust to beat a team of MSU alumni, 5-2. Even former head coach Mike Phillips visited from Colorado to enjoy the “incredible tennis” played at the Anderson-Bobcat Tennis Center. The day featured three matches decided by tiebreakers and an upset of No. 1 singles player and Second Team All-Big Sky selection, Niklas Brandes. Brandes, a sophomore, leads a team of six returning letterman but no seniors.
It was apparent Brandes wasn’t 100 percent when he took the court with doubles partner Diego Campos to battle alumni Kyle McDonald and Thiijs Goosens. The MSU men found themselves down a break but battled back to force a tiebreaker, which McDonald and Goosens won 7-0 to take the match 9-7. Javier Martin-Morillas and Prithiv Sivasubramaniam didn’t fair much better against almuni Fletcher Keyes and Alberto Fuentes, losing 8-5. The No. 3 doubles team featuring Markus Schleuter and Kenny Dodd did pull out a win, 8-2, to avoid a sweep.
New head coach Jared Burnham, formerly of Weber State, mentioned Brandes was battling a “bad stomach” when he bolted for the restroom during his singles match against McDonald. “I coached against him last year, and he’s just deceptive. He battles.” Brandes would have to battle yet again after losing the first set 6-2. Brandes won the second set, but up 6-5 with a chance to close it out, Brandes couldn’t break McDonald’s serve, and the third set would be decided by a tiebreaker. Brandes, in an 0-4 hole, won the next three points and eventually tied it 5-5, but McDonald closed it out with overpowering serves, winning 7-5.
Brandes’ battery mates wouldn’t let a bunch of alumni into their house to push them around. The rest of the MSU men would win their singles matches, including a thrilling match between No. 2 singles player Schleuter and Fuentes, who is the only player not to return to this year’s team. Schleuter won the first set in a tiebreaker, 8-6, and Fuentes won the second set 5-7. Instead of playing a deciding third set in an attempt to save their legs, the players agreed to play another tiebreaker, which Schleuter won 11-9.
Also netting wins were Diego Campos over Keyes, Martin-Morillas over Goosens, Sivasubramaniam over Kyle Hansen, and Dodd over Jesse Peach.
When asked what his goals for the team were this season, Burnham responded, “I want to see us get better, and making the Big Sky Conference Tournament is obviously a reasonable goal.” Burnham’s boys won’t have much time to prepare, as the Bobcats open play Friday, Jan. 25 against Seattle and visit Air Force on Saturday. Big Sky Conference play starts Sunday in Greeley against Northern Colorado.