Little East Men's Tennis Championship Preview: #1 Southern Maine vs. #2 UMass Boston
GORHAM, Maine.—For the sixth consecutive season, the number one and number two seeds will face off in the Little East Conference Men's Tennis Championship Match, as the top-seeded University of Southern Maine Huskies (13-3) will host second-seeded UMass Boston men's tennis (9-8) Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
The Beacons, the defending Little East Conference Tournament Champions, will look for their third-ever Little East Conference Tournament Championship and second-straight trip to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
UMass Boston is aiming to become just the second, second seed to defeat a top seed since the Little East changed tournament formats after the 2008 season. UMass Dartmouth earned a 5-4 victory over top-seeded Salem State University in 2009, with the top seeds earning the title in each of the past five years.
The Beacons will be looking to build off of last year's success, where they defeated #2 UMass Dartmouth 5-4. Little East Conference Player of the Tournament Alex Loyer ('13) and current seniors Charles Lai (Boston, Mass.) and Eglis Bizhtoi (Kucovë, Albania) each went 2-0 in the title match.
Lai and Bizhoti are two of the four returners for head coach Eric Berg, as the two each finished 2-0 in Friday's 5-0 LEC Semifinal victory over Western Connecticut State University.
Lai and fellow senior Sean Cullen (Medway, Mass.) have been the top doubles pair in the Little East all season long, as the two finished 6-0 in conference play and are 11-2 overall at number one singles. The pair have also been two of the most consistent singles players in the LEC, as Cullen finished 5-1 against LEC foes, while Lai went 6-0 at number two in the conference and 10-2 overall at the second spot.
Bizhoti has taken a huge step forward in his second season as a Beacon, teaming up with first-year senior Mark Grinhaus (Scarsdale, N.Y.) to form a formidable pair.
They combined to finish 7-2 overall at number two doubles, including a 5-0 mark against conference foes. In singles play, Bizhoti has posted an impressive 7-3 record at number three singles, while Grinhaus has gone 6-3 at number four singles, including a 5-1 record in the LEC.
After tinkering with combinations all season long, the pair ended the year with a 3-5 mark at number three doubles. Wang has won three-straight singles match to improve to 3-2 on the year at number five singles, while Analetto stands at 1-5 at number six singles.
The Beacons will look to avenge their lone Little East Conference loss of the year Saturday, after dropping a 7-2 contest to the Huskies on April 10. Lai and Cullen earned a victory at number one doubles and Lai added a win at number two singles, but the Huskies shut the Beacons down from there.