The No. 35 BYU men's tennis team clinched the MWC Championship and Deseret First Duel title with a win over Utah. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah -- Securing the title of Mountain West Conference Champions, the No. 35 BYU men’s tennis team struck down rival Utah 6-1 to go undefeated in league play. The victory also gave the Cougars the 2011 Deseret First Duel men's tennis title.
“We just had to forget the rivalry, forget the conference championship and focus on what we’ve been doing all year, which is coming out and competing,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “We’ve focused on playing one match at a time.”
With the win against Utah (7-14, 1-5), BYU recorded its second straight 6-0 conference season after taking the title in 2010. The Cougars end the regular season with a 19-5 overall record.
“Last year, winning the regular season title was incredible and to do it again is amazing,” Pearce said. “It’s so hard to be as good as you need to be in conference play. You can’t have any bad days or let up at all. I think this shows the mental strength these guys have.”
The Utes suffered a tough loss at the No. 1 position in doubles when Benito Suriano, who was also scheduled to play No. 1 singles, was forced to retire due to a knee injury. The Utah duo defaulted to Cougars No. 80 Georgy Batrakov and Senior Thomas Shubert after going up 2-1 to start the match.
With one doubles match already clinched for BYU, senior Evan Urbina and Patrick Kawka pulled out a strong 8-3 finish against Matt Cowley of Salt Lake City and Garrett LaBarre to take the doubles point. Senior Roman Warias and Spencer Smith fell 8-4 to Utes Dmytro Mamedov and Devin Lane, also from Salt Lake City, after the point was secured.
Singles play started at the BYU Outdoor Tennis Courts, but only Warias completed a set before all matches were suspended and moved to the indoor courts due to rain. After a brief break, Batrakov came through with the first singles win of the afternoon, defeating Lane 6-4, 6-1 to put BYU up 2-0.
Utah’s Medinilla scored the only point for Utah, taking the tiebreaker in the first set and winning the second for a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win against Smith, a Salt Lake City native.
With the score now at 2-1, Shubert struck down Ben Tasevac 6-4, 6-2. No. 107 Kawka, after a comeback to take the first set and losing the second, rallied for a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 defeat of Cowley, sealing the win and the Deseret First Duel trophy for the Cougars.
Warias, whose singles match was suspended until one of the first four matches finished on the indoor courts, added the Cougars’ fifth point in a straight-set win against LaBarre, who stepped into the singles lineup after Suriano was injured (6-1, 6-3). Team captain Urbina fell behind 4-6 in his first set at the No. 1 position against Mamedov, but took the second 7-5 and kept up the momentum to finish the three-hour match 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, bringing the overall score to 6-1.
“My heart goes out the Suriano,” Pearce said. “His injury was unfortunate both for him and his team. Utah did a nice job being down one man.”
The match finished regular season for the Cougars, who will play Friday at 2 p.m. in the Mountain West Conference tournament in Fort Collins, Colo.
No. 35 BYU vs. Utah
1. No. 80 Batrakov/Shubert (BYU) def. Medinilla/Suriano (UTAH) 1-2 (ret.)
2. Urbina/Kawka (BYU) def. Cowley/LaBarre (UTAH) 8-3
3. Mamedov/Lane (UTAH) def. Smith/Warias (BYU) 8-4
Order of finish: 1, 2, 3
1. Evan Urbina (BYU) def. Dmytro Mamedov (UTAH) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
2. Georgy Batrakov (BYU) def. Devin Lane (UTAH) 6-4, 6-1
3. Alejandro Medinilla (UTAH) def. Spencer Smith (BYU) 7-6 (4), 6-4
4. No. 107 Patrick Kawka (BYU) def. Matt Cowley (UTAH) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
5. Thomas Shubert (BYU) def. Ben Tasevac (UTAH) 6-4, 6-2
6. Roman Warias (BYU) def. Garrett LaBarre (UTAH) 6-1, 6-3
Order of finish: 2, 3, 5, 4, 6, 1