(Photo by NCAA)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- For the second time in conference history, the No. 36 BYU men’s tennis team won the Mountain West Conference Men’s Tennis Championship with a 4-2 victory against No. 57 TCU Saturday.
“I think it’s a perfect ending to the regular season,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “The guys regrouped after losing doubles. Evan Urbina gave one of the most rousing, inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard during the break, so everyone believed we could go out and do it in singles. It’s truly an honor to be associated with this group.”
Unperturbed by the loss of the doubles point, No. 1 seeded BYU (21-5, 6-0) rolled forward in singles with back-to-back victories at positions No. 4 and No. 2. MWC Freshman of the Year No. 109 Patrick Kawka earned BYU’s first point of the match on a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Slah Mbarek. Three-time MWC Player of the Week Georgy Batrakov followed close behind with a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Zach Nichols to push the Cougars ahead 2-1.
Spencer Smith, a product of Salt Lake City, narrowly eluded a third set by taking the tiebreaker against Christopher Price of No. 2 seeded TCU (13-13, 5-1) to win the match 6-3, 7-6 and put BYU into position for the win.
Senior Thomas Shubert at the No. 5 position won the championship for the Cougars with a straight-set victory against Soren Goritzka (6-3, 6-4).
TCU’s only singles point came from No. 72 Emanuel Brighiu, who defeated Urbina at the No. 1 position 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
Prior to singles, the Cougars put in a good effort in doubles play, but TCU slipped past to snatch the doubles point and push ahead 1-0. Smith and Roman Warias had BYU’s only doubles win against Daniel Sanchez and Nichols (8-6). In the tiebreaker, Urbina and Kawka fell to Paul Chappell and Cameron Nash 9-8 after Batrakov and Shubert lost 8-6 to No. 48 Brighiu and Price.
“After doubles I said, ‘We’re not going to let anything take this away from us. This is our day,’” team captain Urbina said. “Everyone was just so fired up. Everyone believed. And it was right then when I knew we were going to win. We went out believing. We fought, which is what we’ve done all year. It was huge for us.”
BYU finished conference play with its second straight MWC Regular Season Champions title. Last season, BYU lost to TCU in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
The victory marked BYU’s last competition in the MWC before the move to the West Coast Conference in the fall.
With the win, the Cougars get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament in May. The team will learn its opponent Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. The announcement can be watched at www.NCAA.com.
No. 36 BYU vs. No. 57 TCU
No. 1 BYU-4 No. 2 TCU-2
1. No. 48 Brighiu/Price (TCU) def. Batrakov/Shubert (BYU) 8-6
2. Chappell/Nash (TCU) def. Kawka/Urbina (BYU) 9-8 (9-7)
3. Smith/Warias (BYU) def. Nichols/Sanchez (TCU) 8-6
Order of finish: 1, 3, 2
1. No. 72 Emanuel Brighiu (TCU) def. Evan Urbina (BYU) 5-7, 7-5, 6-3
2. Georgy Batrakov (BYU) def. Zach Nichols (TCU) 6-2, 6-1
3. Spencer Smith (BYU) def. Christopher Price (TCU) 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
4. No. 109 Patrick Kawka (BYU) def. Slah Mbarek (TCU) 6-1, 6-2
5. Thomas Shubert (BYU) def. Soren Goritzka (TCU) 6-3, 6-4
6. Roman Warias (BYU) vs. Daniel Sanchez (TCU) 3-6, 5-4 susp.
Order of finish: 4, 2, 3, 1, 5