Sophomore Chester Espie won his school record 21st consecutive singles match to help lead the Stetson men's tennis team (9-0, 1-0) to a 6-1 victory over Northern Kentucky (3-8, 0-1) on Thursday afternoon at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
Espie entered with 20 consecutive singles wins, which was tied with Mario Alberto Cayo's record, set in 2004. It just so happened that his record-breaking win also clinched the match for the Hatters. He defeated Balint Zsidai 7-5, 6-1, coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the first set to earn the victory.
"I feel pretty lucky," Espie said of the record. "A lot of those matches were tight and I guess there was a little bit of luck in there. I am pretty happy with getting 21 wins and helping the team with all of those matches."
"Anytime you find yourself in our men's tennis record book, it is a significant accomplishment, considering the successes that we have had," Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote said of Espie's achievement. "When you break a record, it's phenomenal. It was one of the records that I thought would never be broken."
Stetson started the day by sweeping the doubles matches for the second consecutive outing. Senior Didrik Berg and freshman Simon Julin defeated Cameron Johnson and Jody Maginley 8-2 to get things started.
Espie and sophomore Nathan Debut followed that with an 8-2 win over Andre Correa and Jimmy Caccamo to clinch doubles and give Stetson an early 1-0 lead. Freshman Laurynas Antropikas and junior Hans Adrian Riseng won 8-5 at the number one doubles position to give Stetson the sweep.
In singles, Stetson won five of the six matches on the day. At number five singles, freshman Egor Panyushkin opened with a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Maginley. Antropikas was next to finish, defeating Pierce 6-3, 6-1, before Espie clinched the match.
"The men played another good match today against NKU," Pilote said. "The team continues to improve with every match that we play."
In the final two matches of the day, freshman Cahit Kapukiran defeated Correa 6-3, 6-1 at number four singles and Julin defeated Christopher Angulo 6-0, 6-2 at number three singles position. Kapukiran and Julin, along with Espie, remain undefeated at 9-0 in singles this season.
Northern Kentucky's only point of the day came when Berg was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-1 to Guillaume.
"It was a difficult decision to retire our captain and leader Didrik today," Pilote said. "He has been dealing with a nagging injury for the last couple weeks and of course as a fighter, he wanted to continue to play. The next day off will surely help him."
The Hatters, who are off to their best start since 1996, are back in action this Saturday when they continue conference play against Lipscomb. The Hatters and Bisons are set to begin at 10:00 a.m.
Match notes: Stetson is off to its best start since 1996, when the Hatters went 17-0 to open the campaign ... Berg and Julin are now 4-0 in doubles ... This was the first ever meeting between Stetson and Northern Kentucky.