ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 28 UCF men’s tennis team was edged by the No. 46 USF Bulls for the American Athletic Conference title by a score of 4-3. The two teams had met just eight days ago, as UCF handed USF a 4-0 loss on their home court, so the wounds were still fresh for the Bulls.
The three-seeded Bulls jumped on the top-seeded Knights early in doubles play, and at one point led 5-4 on every court. The first court to finish was court three as Alan Rubio and Manoel Alencar fell to Chase Ferguson and Sergio Gomez Montesa 6-4.
From there, things got intense. The Knights tied the score at 5-5 on both courts after trailing and keep applying the pressure. Gabriel Decamps and Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi came all the way back to win 7-5 over Jakub Wojcik and ivan Yatsuk on court two to even the doubles point. It came down to court one, where No. 16 Trey Hilderbrand and Bogdan Pavel had taken No. 87 Alberto Barros-Campos and Pierre Luquet to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Hilderbrand and Pavel jumped out to a 6-1 lead before winning 7-6 (7-3) to seal the doubles point for UCF.
USF took the momentum back during singles play, taking four of the six first sets. One of the two first sets the Knights won almost immediately cashed in as Grassi Mazzuchi overtook Gomez Montesa 6-0, 6-4 to give UCF a 2-0 edge.
UCF’s point streak ended at 25 in a row, and so did their chance at six straight sweeps as USF picked up a point on court three where Luquet topped Pavel 6-2, 6-0.
USF added two more singles points to take a 3-2 lead in the match. Court one went to the Bulls as No. 18 Barroso-Campos edged No. 35 Decamps 6-1, 6-4. Court four would go to Wojcik as he topped Hilderbrand 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.
With two courts remaining and heading into third sets, the Knights still had a shot, but they had to be victorious on both courts. Mikhail Sokolovskiy got one of them back for the Knights as he picked up his third victory of the tournament by defeating Yatsuk 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. The win put Sokolovskiy at a record of 29-9 when you compile his fall and spring victories, pulling him to third place on UCF’s single season wins list. He passed Doug Baxter who had 28 wins in 1977. Sitting ahead of Sokolovskiy is Jim Hall and Steve Bryant, who have 31 and 33 wins respectively. Both records were also set in 1977.
Just moments after Sokolovskiy tied the match at three, court two fell to the Bulls to win them the match. Ferguson got the clincher over Rubio by a score of 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
The Bulls claimed their fifth championship in six years, only missing out on a championship last season. The Knights hung tough with an arguable dynasty in the making.
Lucky for the Knights that they have a dynasty of their own brewing. UCF boasted the eight best recruiting class in the nation coming into the season as the Knights brought aboard four talent freshman, all who performed at a high level. Those four added in with the four sophomores this season could create a tough, experienced group down the road. We could see more heavyweight title fights like this between the two sides for seasons to come.
The Knights will be seeking an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament on Selection Monday which takes place on April 29. UCF will await their next match as it unveiled to the nation on the selection show.