May 4, 2013

Men's Tennis Earn Little East Title With 5-4 Victory over Defending Champion UMass Dartmouth

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.-Trailing by a point against the Little East Conference defending champions with two singles matches to finish, UMass Boston swept the final two matches to earn a 5-4 victory over UMass Dartmouth and earn their first LEC Tournament Title in 23 years Saturday afternoon at the DuPont Tennis Courts. 

With the Beacons greatest season in program history on the line, Eglis Bizhoti (Dorchester, Mass.) tied the score at 4-4 with a win at number six singles, before Little East Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Alex Loyer (Chelmsford, Mass.) sent the partisan UMass Boston crowd flooding onto the court with a win at number three singles. 

With the victory, UMass Boston clinches their Little East Conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and moves to 14-3 overall. The Beacons will be making their first ever NCAA appearance as they put their 12-game winning streak on the line. 

On the other side, UMass Dartmouth finishes their season with a 9-4 record, falling just short of their third consecutive Little East Conference Tournament crown. 

Loyer and fellow captain Charles Lai (Boston, Mass.) led the way for UMB once again, combining for three points, with a victory at number two doubles and a win apiece at third and fourth singles. Bizhoti picked up two points as well, teaming with Seth Shavers (Boston, Mass.) for a win at number three doubles, before picking up a victory at sixth-flight singles.

The Beacons looked destined for an easy victory after winning two of three doubles matches, but a match-ending injury caused David Hernandez (Bogota, Colombia) to withdraw at number two singles, to give the Corsairs their first and only lead of the day at 4-3.

Bizhoti and Shavers put the Beacons on the scoreboard to begin the match with an 8-2 victory over UMass Dartmouth's Jonathan Reagan and Ray Lawton at third-flight doubles. 

The Beacons second pair of Loyer and Lai quickly pushed the lead to 2-0, when they downed Dan Chouinard and Brennan Dugas 8-2. 

UMass Dartmouth kept the match close with a huge victory at number one singles, as Karsten Rathlev and Matt Bejtlich dominated Hernandez and Sean Cullen (Medway, Mass.) 8-1.

After a shaky start, Lai settled down to push the UMB lead back to two at 3-1, when he earned a 6-0, 6-2 victory at fourth-flight singles.

But that's when the tides seemed to shift on UMass Boston. 

Despite doing everything he could, Cullen couldn't find a way to slow down Rathlev, as the Corsairs captain took a 6-0, 6-2 victory at top-flight singles.

The Corsairs evened the match at 3-3 when Hernandez had to withdraw due to an injury. After earning a victory in the first set, the reigning Little East Conference Rookie of the Year began cramping up and had to walk-off trailing 4-3 in the second set.

UMass Dartmouth kept the momentum going and put themselves within one point of their fourth championship in five years, when Chouinard took down Shavers 6-2, 6-3 at number five singles. 

With their backs against the wall, Bizhoti evened the score at 4-4, when he finished off freshman Malcolm Neville 6-4, 6-2.

That's when everyone turned their attention to court three. Both squads and their cheering sections piled in behind the fences, knowing that their championship dreams came down to the final match of the day.

Despite an early lead in the match, Bejtlich couldn't keep it going, as Loyer slowly but surely took set one 6-4 and was leading the second set 5-4 when Bizhoti's match finished. 

Loyer quickly built a 30-0 lead on Bejtlich's serve, before the Corsairs junior came back to tie it. A long lob just over Bejtlich's head gave Loyer Championship Point and the Beacons senior came through, as he forced Bejtlich to send a forehand long, to give the Beacons their first title since 1990.

The victory extended Loyer's personal winning streak to 25 straight and gave him a perfect 14-0 mark against conference foes.

UMass Boston won't have to wait long to learn who their first round opponent will be, as the NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Selection Show will be hosted live on NCAA.com Monday May 6 at 7 p.m.