Feb. 28, 2010
NASHVILLE - With the start of SEC play just around the corner, Vanderbilt's 39th-ranked men's tennis team earned its second victory in as many days as the Commodores closed out their non-conference schedule with a hard-fought 5-2 victory over No. 64 Middle Tennessee State on Sunday at the Currey Tennis Center.
The win moved Vanderbilt to 8-3 on the season and 6-0 at home, while MTSU fell to 3-9 overall.
Vanderbilt won the match by three points, but the final score was not as indicative of how close the match was. The Commodores were able to sweep all three doubles matches to win the doubles point and take a 1-0 lead. Vanderbilt's Alex Zotov extended VU's lead to two, 2-0, when he won in the No. 5 singles match, but the Blue Raiders pulled within one with a win in the No. 1 slot. Vanderbilt's Adam Baker would extend VU's lead to 3-1, but at the time of his victory, the Commodores were trailing in the final three matches.
"I tell the guys all the time that team's tend to mirror their coach's mentality and I've known Dave (McNamara) for a long time," Head Coach Ian Duvnehage said. "I said to the guy's after doubles, `If we think just because we won all three doubles matches, that we've got these guys, we've got another surprise coming.' I thought they did a great job of competing and really putting us behind the eight ball and forcing us to have to come back."
The comeback was started by senior Vijay Paul, who rallied from one set down to clinch the match in the No. 3 position.
After dropping the first set to Richard Cowden, 6-3, Paul built a 5-2 lead in the second set before winning 6-2 to even the match. Paul then clinched the overall match for the second day in a row and for the third time this season by winning the third set, 6-0.
"It is good to know that we can comeback like that," Duvenhage said. "We talk a lot about how you've got to expect your opponent to play as well as they can play or even better. If you aren't having one of your best days, you've still got to find a way to win. It was ugly but we got it done."
At the same time Paul was staging his comeback so was junior Bryant Salcedo. Like Paul, Salcedo was down a set before rallying for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over MTSU's Victor Melo in the No. 2 position. Salcedo's victory gave Vanderbilt its fifth point of the day.
The Commodores concluded non-conference play by outscoring opponents 38-4 at the Currey Tennis Center.
It was the eighth time this season, the Commodores opened a match by winning the doubles point. Vanderbilt remained perfect this season when winning the doubles point, and is now 8-0 when it does so. Vanderbilt has swept all three doubles matches three times this season.
The first duo to win in doubles was Ryan Lipman and Bryant Salcedo. One day after earning a victory over Furman in their debut match together, Vanderbilt's No. 2 duo cruised to an 8-0 victory of Victor Melo and Matthew Langley.
Clinching the doubles point for the Commodores was the No. 1 duo of Adam Baker and Alex Zotov, who won their sixth match in a row. Baker and Zotov upended MTSU's John Peers and Kyle Wishing, 8-6.
Completing the sweep did not come easily for Vanderbilt on Sunday. Vanderbilt's No. 3 tandem of Alex DiValerio and Vijay Paul built an early 2-0 lead against Richard Cowden and Shaun Waters before falling behind 6-4. Paul and DiValerio rallied to tie the match at seven and went on to win the 10-point tiebreaker, 12-10, to win the match, 8-7 (12-10).
Junior Alex Zotov opened singles play with a win to extend Vanderbilt's lead to two, 2-0. Zotov defeated MTSU's Alex McCann, 6-2, 6-4, in the No. 5 singles slot to move to 10-0 in dual play and 19-2 overall.
After MTSU pulled within one, Vanderbilt junior Adam Baker extended the Commodores' lead back to two, 3-1, following a two-set victory over Shaun Waters in the No. 4 position. Baker's win came on the heels of his only defeat in dual play on Saturday, as he moved to 8-1 this season.
Up next, Vanderbilt will open SEC play on March 5 when the Commodores host Ole Miss at 2 p.m.
"It just gets tougher and tougher," Duvenhage said. "We are entering the SEC season in a different place mentally and emotionally than we were a year ago. We've won enough to know what it feels like, so that helps."