Boise State Tough On Tide Tennis

There was an echo in the Alabama tennis program Saturday. Boise State…Boise State… The 14th ranked Crimson Tide men's team, playing in Tuscaloosa, and the 24th rated Bama women, playing in Athens, Georgia, were both eliminated from NCAA Tournament play by lower ranked Boise State teams.

The 14th-ranked Alabama men's tennis team (21-8) lost an almost four and a half hour marathon match 4-3 to the 25th-ranked Boise State Broncos (24-8). The Broncos took the doubles point and managed to hold off the Crimson Tide to advance to the Round of 16 in College Station, Texas.

"This was a classic college tennis match," said Tide Men's Coach Billy Pate. "They laid their hearts out there today, especially (Michael) Thompson. You rarely see a guy cramp that much and stay in the match. We were back and forth on whether to play him in singles. Boise State is such a good team. They play so emotional. This is a game of inches and that's the way it goes."

Boise State took the early lead with wins in doubles at No. 1 and No. 2. First off the court was the freshman duo of Ricky Doverspike and Michael Thompson who earned an 8-3 win over Boise State senior Blane Shields and junior Matt Solomon. The Alabama team picked up an early break to pull in front 3-1 and never looked back. The Broncos evened up the score with a win on court two as seniors Stanley Sarapanich and Clancy Shields tallied an 8-5 win over senior Billy Mertz and junior Saketh Myneni. The Tide tandem grabbed the early break to go up 2-0 in the match, but Sarapanich and Shields came right back to tie the score 2-2. The Boise State duo then earned a break at 6-4 and served for the win moments later.

All eyes moved to court one which featured a pair of ranked opponents in Alabama's No. 23 senior team of Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau and Boise State senior Kean Feeder and freshman James Meredith, currently ranked No. 43. Neither team would give up a break in the match forcing a tiebreaker to be played to determine who was given the doubles point. The Broncos jumped out to a quick 4-0 advantage before the Tide would earn its first point. With a simple swing of momentum, Buikema and Thibaudeau came back to tie the breaker at 6-6. From that point on it would be a back-and-forth battle until Feeder and Meredith eventually walked away with the 12-10 edge giving Boise State the doubles point.

Alabama senior Michael Jung evened the match up at 1-1 with a dominant performance at No. 6 singles. Jung earned several breaks in the first to beat Blane Shields 6-1 and closed things out in the second 6-4. Mertz followed that up with a 6-2, 6-1 performance over Sarapanich at No. 5 to give the Tide its first lead in the dual match of the day. Boise evened the match at 2-2 with a win on court three. No. 87 Meredith and Buikema were on serve until 5-4, when Meredith was able to earn a break and take the first set 6-4. Meredith carried the momentum into the second, earning an early break. That would be all the Bronco freshman needed, taking the second set 6-3.

Alabama regained the lead after a win on court one by No 22 Myneni. Feeder, currently No. 72 nationally, drew first blood by earning a break for a 4-3 lead in the opening set. However, Myneni would fight back, taking the final four games of the set to win 7-5. The two players traded breaks early in the second, but it was Myneni who was able to earn and consolidate a break, cruising to take the second set easily 6-2.

The final two matches of the day both went to three sets. On court two, it was a showdown between ranked seniors. Thibaudeau, coming in at No. 84, was locked in a battle with 24th-ranked Clancy Shields. At the No. 4 spot, freshmen Thompson and Cristian Hodel were fighting through extended rallies. Boise State claimed the battle of the seniors, as Shields won 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. There were three breaks in the first set, with Shields earning the last one en route to taking the set 6-4. The second remained on serve until 4-4, when Thibaudeau broke and served out the set 6-4. Shields would manage to bounce back, racing out to a 4-1 lead in the final set. The deficit was too much for Thibaudeau to overcome, as Shields won the set 6-2.

With the Broncos taking court two, a berth in the Round of 16 came down to the two freshmen. Thompson started the match off by breaking serve. That break would stand until 4-2, when Hodel broke back. However, with Hodel serving at 4-5, Thompson broke to take the set. Thompson appeared to be well on his way to a straight sets victory when he took a 3-0 lead to open the second set. But Hodel would battle back, evening the set at 3-3. The two freshmen traded breaks again, but this time it was Hodel who would take the set by virtue of breaking serve with Thompson serving at 5-6. The final set was tight the entire way, as both players managed to take much better care of their serves. Thompson was struggling with a foot injury and cramps throughout the third, but did not give in. He had two break points at 5-5, but could not convert. The missed opportunities clearly deflated him, as he was broken at love the next game to drop the match 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Boise State advances to the Round of 16 and will play No. 3 Ohio State Thursday, May 14 in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, in Athens, the 24th-ranked University of Alabama (15-9) women's tennis team dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 35 Boise State (24-4) Saturday afternoon in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. Alabama's season culminated in its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and achieving the team's first national ranking since 1997.

Boise State took a 3-0 lead by winning the doubles point (their 26th doubles-point win in 28 matches this season) along with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 singles before the Crimson Tide rallied to even the match with wins at No. 4, No. 6, and No. 2 singles. The match came down to a battle at No. 5 singles between UA's Taylor Lindsey and BSU's Klaudia Wlodarczyk, who prevailed over Lindsey 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, to end the match. The marathon match lasted four hours, 29 minutes, in humid conditions.

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