OLATHE, Kan -Missouri Baptist men’s tennis won their semifinal and championship matches on Saturday. The day started with a 5-2 victory over rival Missouri Valley and concluded with a 5-4 comeback win over Baker in the championship match.
Missouri Baptist (11-7, 7-1 AMC) opened the semifinals with its seventh doubles sweep of the year. Senior Tanner Morris and junior Sean Nanney started things with an 8-5 win at No.3. The Spartans’ top duo, Lucas Oliveira and Quinton Argent, shortly followed with an 8-5 win of their own. Ricardo Martin and James Tobin completed the sweep with a tiebreaker win at No.2.
Missouri Valley responded in singles with two wins at No.1 and No.2. The Vikings had set leads in three other matches before the Spartans closed out the match. Brazilian native Ricardo Martin continued his stellar season with a dramatic three-set victory at No.3. Martin won 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Sophomore Dylan Walker closed out the Vikings at No.5 in the first of many comeback wins for the day. Walker dropped the first set 4-6 before coming back to roll 6-0, 6-2.
The No.2-seeded Spartans advanced to take on the No.4-seeded Baker Wildcats. The Wildcats upset the top-seeded William Woods Owls 5-4 in the other semifinal. Baker received the most votes in the conference for the NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ poll several weeks throughout the season. The championship match did not start as well as the semifinal. In a rare turn of events, the Spartans fell behind after doubles for only the fourth time all year. The Spartans were winless the previous three times.
Tobin and Martin picked up the lone doubles win 8-6 at No.2. The reliable duo picked up their fourteenth win of the season. The Wildcats built on their lead with two wins at No.1 and No.2 singles, going up 4-1. Those were last wins for Baker and Missouri Baptist began their comeback. Tobin led the charge with a solid 6-4, 6-1 win at No.4 singles. The last three singles matches all went the distance and were decided in third sets. Martin had to win in three sets for the second time of the day. He blanked his opponent in the first set 6-0. After dropping his second set, Martin rallied to dominate his third set 6-1.
Picking up his second victory of the day, Walker erased the Wildcats’ lead with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win at No.5. The Bahamian native trailed 2-4 in the third set before coming back to win the final four games. The NAIA Unaffiliated Group Tournament (American Midwest/Heart of America) Championship came down to Nanney at No.6 singles. The St. Charles native dropped the first set in a tiebreaker and battled back to win the final two sets 6-1, 6-4. “Arguably the most fun day of my life,” Head Coach Cole Stevenson said following the championship. “These guys just don’t quit and wanted it more. Blessed to have everyone on this team.” Before this season, Missouri Baptist had only one conference tournament win in program history. They advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the first time in program history. Nationals are scheduled for May 17-21 in Mobile, Alabama.
Original Post Date: 03/05/2016