For the 10th time in the past 11 years, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's tennis has earned at least a share of the Southland Conference title after storming past Lamar 6-1 Friday afternoon at the Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center.
The Southland Regular Season Championship gives both the Islanders men and women the 2017 titles. Combined, it's the 12th title in the past 11 years for Islanders Tennis.
"Lamar is a great team," said Director of Tennis Steve Moore. "They've been in the national rankings all year. We have a ton of respect for them. All year long, we told our guys if they committed to paying the price and sacrifice and day-by-day building their legs and fitness, then their legs would be there in these three-hour matches. It's so fulfilling beyond words to see these guys rise up in all these third sets."
Celebrating five seniors in their final home match, the Islanders (15-8, 4-1) made the day a bit sweeter with the statement win over the Cardinals.
It was the seniors who led the way for the Blue and Green, starting with a massive rally in doubles play. Lamar raced to a 6-2 win on court two. The Cardinals also opened a 5-2 advantage at court one before the Blue and Green turned it on.
Seniors Mitchell Cook and Maximilian Ilic battled to a 7-5 win on court three to level the doubles. The two battled back and forth with their Lamar challengers before edging the match in the final game.
That set the table for Kevin Bettendroffer and William Mottet's dramatic rally. The two fell behind 3-0 to start the match and were eventually down 5-2 in the match. But the Islanders found their stride, rolling off the next three points to tie it at 5-5.
After the two sides traded blows to reach 6-6, Lamar jumped to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak. The Islanders responded by rolling off seven of the next eight points for a 7-4 win and the doubles point.
As the match turned to singles competition, the Islanders got out to a quick start with two victories at three and five.
William Mottet was the first to extend the Islander advantage. The freshman improved to 4-1 on the season in Southland action with the victory. Mottet knocked off Jeandre Hoogenboezem in 6-4, 6-3 fashion to make it 2-0 Islanders.
At five, Carlos Pedrosa Cuevas stayed perfect in Southland play with his straight-set win. The sophomore rolled off a quick 6-2 win in the opening set before racing out to a 5-1 lead in the second. Benny Schweizer came all the way back to level at 5-5, but Pedrosa Cuevas regained his composure and took the next two games for a 7-5 win.
Up 3-0 in the match, senior Paul Cook would provide the clinching point. Undefeated in Southland Conference action, the leader battled to a 7-6 victory in the opening set. Cook rallied from a 6-5 deficit to force the tiebreak, earning a 7-4 win. In the second set, Cook cruised to a 6-2 win sending the Islanders into celebration mode.
Continuing to play out in order to settle the three-way tie, Gonzalo Achondo rallied to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win at number six. Cagatay Soke dropped a hard-fought 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, match at the two spot before senior Kevin Bettendroffer closed the match with a victory.
Bettendroffer knocked off Michael Feucht 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 to cap a day on which all four seniors in action picked up victories.
On the match…
"Lamar has an awesome program and this has become such an awesome rivalry. That's part of the magnitude of this match and what these 300 fans brought – I can't even describe how huge that was. These guys were so energized and the combination of the huge passionate crowd and these guys' legs were what got it done for us today."
On the seniors…
"What a special group. These guys have poured their heart and souls into this team. They were special. They chose the athletic discipline road and it paid dividends for them today."
On 10 titles in 11 years..
"We built a tradition and built it with high-character guys that were all team first and committed to extreme hard work. This group represents that as well as any. You look at the streak and the tradition of this team – all the guys from the past – all the coaching and mentoring those guys have given this group about how to be Islanders is really special."
SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Islanders head to Beaumont next weekend for the Southland Conference Championships, beginning Saturday for the men. The Islanders will be the top seed in the tournament, facing Nicholls to open the weekend at 10 a.m. on Saturday.