One of the greatest thrills for a fan in any sport is the comeback victory; that come-from-behind win that came out of nowhere just when you had pretty much given up any hope of seeing victory for your team in that particular game. You have to go through the valley of despair and frustration in order to experience it, but when it happens, boy is it worth it! Yesterday, The Miami Hurricanes Men’s tennis team provided such a thrill for ‘Canes tennis fans.
The Men’s tennis team struggled a bit at the beginning of the season, losing to teams like Central Florida (for the first time ever) and South Florida, and falling completely out of the Top 75 national rankings. When the Canes met Presbyterian on March 4th, Miami was the unranked team going up against the ranked Blue Hose. Never mind about making the NCAA tournament. A rare losing season the Men’s tennis team looked like a very real possibility. For a team that has had only seven losing seasons in the history of the program, it was a bitter scenario to face.
But what a turn around this month has been for the Men’s team. After beating the Blue Hose, the Canes went on to beat No. 54 Georgia Tech and No 18 Wake Forest. Suddenly, the whole outlook on the season had changed. If the ‘Canes could get past No. 31 NC State, then talk of making the NCAA tournament for the 44th time would become more than a homer spewing nonsense.
The match against the Wolfpack did not start off so well. In the all-important doubles matches, the senior team of Gabriel Flores and Diego Soto had a great win against the No. 27th-ranked team in the nation, but Miami dropped the other two matches to lose the doubles point. Going into the singles matches, the Canes need to win four of six to upset NC State. With the No. 41 and No. 98 players in their lineup, it looked bad for the ‘Canes this time around.
Omar Aly has done an incredible job in the No. 1 singles position this year; winning six straight, including a win over No. 20 Romain Bogaert of Wake Forest on Friday. But he finally went down to NC State’s top ranked player on Sunday and along with William Albanese’s loss in the No. 5 position, the Canes suddenly found themselves in a 0-3 hole with zero room for error.
However, the situation did not look completely hopeless, as all of the four remaining ‘Canes had won their first sets and looked like they would start scoring some points. Flores defeated another ranked player in straight sets to get the ‘Canes on the board and Henrique Tsukamoto quickly followed that up with a straight sets win in the No. 6 position. Wilfredo Gonzales then won his No. 4 singles match and suddenly it was all tied up at 3-3, with the outcome of the match to be decided by Diego Soto and the Wolfpack’s Nick Horton. Soto won the first set in a very close 11-9 tie break, dropped the second set 6-3, and a third set would now decide it all. Soto had dropped his three-set match against Wake Forest and there was some concern about how it would turn out this time but boy did he step up. After Horton won a game to make it 2-1, Soto raced through the final four games to win 6-1 and clinch yet another ‘Canes victory over a ranked foe.
After a win like the ‘Canes had on March 21st against Wake Forest, it is often very difficult to turn it on again and keep the momentum going, but somehow, the Canes were able to reach down and make an amazing comeback against a good ACC rival. The hard part of the ACC season remains, with No. 6 North Carolina, No. 7 Virginia and No. 13 Duke coming up, but if the ‘Canes can take care of the matches they are favored in and maybe pull off an upset or two against No. 41 Florida State or No. 49 Virginia Tech, the NCAA tournament will become a reality.
The Women’s team also continues to impress, winning their 10th straight match with a victory over Wake Forest. The ladies are now 14-2, 7-0 on the season. They now face their biggest test of the regular season with two roads games against No. 10 North Carolina and No. 1 Duke. Go Canes!
Men: Nebraska-Omaha on March 25, Tuesday at The Schiff
Women: North Carolina on April 5th, Saturday at Chapel Hill