MOBILE, Alabama - The curtain finally closed on McMurry University men's tennis' special season, losing to Fresno Pacific University, 5-0, in the semifinals of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) championships at the Mobile Tennis Center.
(All matches are stopped once one of the teams secures five match points).
The War Hawks end the 2013 campaign with an overall mark of 13-9. McM won the NCCAA Central Region to reach the national tournament.
"Our guys really gave their all," said McM head coach Mark Hathorn of his team's effort. "Unfortunately, today didn't go our way and we lost to a quality team. But you have to look at the entire body of work to appreciate what this team accomplished.
"Being our first year in the NCCAA, I think we showed everyone that McMurry Tennis belonged here. We stood toe-to-toe with the top finishers."
Fresno Pacific raced out to a quick 3-0 lead in the team score by sweeping doubles matches. The Sunbirds won by identical 8-2 scores at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles, while topping the War Hawks 8-4 at No. 2 doubles. McMurry's Chris Breaux and Casjen Rico took the loss at No. 1, Felipe Cruz and Dani Perez at No. 2, and Preston Steblein and Cristiano Mendes fell at No. 3 in tandem play.
When the smoke had cleared – literally – the nationally-ranked FPU team kept the pressure on through singles.
With singles play barely started, play at the tournament was suspended when smoke from a nearby controlled burn to clear brush in a nearby botanical garden overtook the 60-court tennis complex when the wind shifted, causing breathing and vision difficulties for competitors. After a 25-minute delay, the No. 13-ranked NCAA II Sunbirds continued their attack on McM.
McM's Breaux – playing No. 1 singles – was the first individual match to come to a close. FPU's Kirill Sinitsyn scored the 6-0, 6-1 over the War Hawks' junior to make the team score 4-0.
At No. 6 singles, Breaux's doubles partner Casjen Rico was topped by Fresno Pacific's Kyle Rowe - 6-2, 6-4 - to give the Sunbirds the berth in Friday mornings NCCAA championship match versus Azusa Pacific (the only other team to beat McMurry during the championship tournament). Rico finished the 15-3 in singles matches.
At No. 2 singles, Cruz was down a set but leading in the second when play was suspended, as was Mendes at No. 4 singles. Perez was up a set and leading the second at No. 3, while Steblein was ahead.
Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.
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