The Stetson Men's tennis team used a strong singles showing to win its season opening match against #56 St. Johns on Thursday afternoon. After losing the doubles point, Stetson bounced back to win five singles matches to secure the victory at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
"Despite the youth of our line-up, the team played with great poise to come back from losing the always important doubles point," Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote said after the victory. "We started very well in singles play and the momentum changed immediately."
Freshman Simon Julin (Stockholm, Sweden) began the impressive singles play by cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Mark Mozer. Senior Didrik Berg (Oslo, Norway) followed that with a win of his own, defeating regionally ranked Vasko Mladenov 6-2, 4-2. The St. John's player was forced to retire in the second set due to injury.
Freshman Egor Panyushkin (Moscow, Russia) was the third to finish, defeating Michael-John Every 6-3, 6-1 to give the Hatters a 3-1 lead in the match. Fellow freshman Cahit Kapukiran (Izmir, Turkey) then clinched the match for the Hatters, winning 6-3, 6-1 against Mike Lampa.
"It's such a great start for us, winning against a good team," Kapukiran said of the season-opener. "I was happy to clinch the match. It was a tough match for us, coming back after losing the doubles point."
Berg, as the lone senior, was pleased to see such a young team step up and play well against a quality opponent like St. John's.
"Being the leader of the team, especially a young team, is tough," Berg said. "I was happy to see the guys step up, especially the freshmen. They all won today, fairly easily too. To see that, it's such a great feeling"
The final two singles matches were split by Stetson, with Chester Espie (Auckland, New Zealand) defeating Hugo Morth 6-4, 6-2 and junior Hans Adrian Riseng (Oslo, Norway) falling to Valentin Mihai 7-5, 6-3.
In doubles, Julin and Kapukiran won their match and finished first, defeating Every and Morth, 8-2. However, St. John's won the final two doubles matches to take the point. The duo of Berg and Riseng was defeated by Mladenov and Morth, 8-6. Lampa and Mihai defeated Espie and Riseng 8-4 to secure the doubles point for St. John's.
The 5-2 victory marked the first win for the Hatters over a ranked opponent since April 15, 2011, when they defeated #71 North Florida in the Atlantic Sun semifinals. This is the first win for Stetson against a non-conference ranked opponent since March 16, 2010, when the team defeated #70 Cleveland State.
The next match for the Hatters will be Saturday, Feb. 2 against Flagler College at 1:00 p.m. The match will be the second of a doubleheader, with the women's tennis team beginning play at 10:00 a.m.
"St. Johns has an experienced line-up and will have their share of successes this year," Pilote said of the Red Storm. "We will now turn our focus to preparing for our next match against Flagler."