DeLAND, Fla. (March 13, 2010) - For the second time this week the 72-ranked ETSU men's tennis team showed its grit and willpower as the Bucs picked up a important Atlantic Sun Conference win Saturday with a 5-2 comeback victory over league rival Stetson at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center in DeLand, Fla.
ETSU defeated No. 71 UNC Wilmington early in the week in a close 4-3 come-from-behind win.
With the victory ETSU improved to 7-6 overall with a perfect 4-0 mark in A-Sun action, while the Hatters dropped to 9-3 and 2-2.
"Since we've had a lot of success the last couple of seasons every team in the conference is gunning for us every time we take the court," said head coach Yaser Zaatini. "Teams like Stetson, Campbell, Upstate and North Florida all have improved dramatically so we knew entering today's match that it was going to be a dogfight from the start."
As doubles play got underway ETSU picked up the quick 1-0 lead as juniors Grega Teraz (Mojstrana, Slovenia) and Charles Bottoni (Bois Guillaume, France) dropped Didrik Berg and Chris Swanteson 8-3, and sophomore Sander Gille (Kuringen, Belgium) and freshman Jesus Bandres (Caracas, Venezuela) outlasted Maksim Levanovich and Casare Galle, 8-6.
As singles play opened Stetson fought back as Ceasre Gallo and Levanovich gave the Hatters the 2-1 advantage with wins at No. 4 and No. 2.
After freshman Juan-Carlos Ramierz (Asuncion, Paraguay) won his first set 7-5 against Njal Stene, Stetson didn't let up on two out of the four other courts as senior Daniel Isaza (Medellin, Columbia), sophomore Jeremy Bonnevalle (Keerbergen, Belgium) dropped their first sets.
At the same time Isaza and Bonnevalle were trying to find their rhythem, Gille was in a long first set battle against Mark Mestan at the No. 1 position.
"This group of guys never quit when the odds got stacked against them," said Zaatini. "After Stetson took the lead, instead of getting down and losing our swagger, our guys just kept fighting. Jeremy may have lost his first set, but after being down five love he ended up winning two games. That's not a ton but that little bit of toughness did wonders for him and our team as we moved deeper in the match."
After Gille finally closed out the first set against Mestan, the Kuringen, Belgium native then tied the match at 2-2 with a strong 6-2 victory in the second set. Ramierz then gave the Bucs a 3-2 lead as he closed out his contest against Stene 4-6, 6-3.
"Juan-Carlos and Sander played solid for us today," said Zaatini. "I thought both their matches were against good players and so their two victories were the key for us gaining some traction after we got behind. If they don't win them two, not only does Stetson come out on top, but they most likely do it in convincing fashion."
Needing only one more point for their 38th-straight A-Sun regular season win, Isaza -- the ETSU senior captain -- stormed back against Berg the final two sets winning at 6-4, 6-2. Bonnevalle then finalized the score with a 6-3, 7-5 come-from-behind win against Alex Hackett.
"Overall, I'm so proud of these players. Our guys responded with an extreme amount of heart and determination this afternoon," said Zaatini. "I'm so honored to be able to coach a group of guys that I know are going to give everything they got when they play."
ETSU returns to action as USC Upstate travels to the Tri-Cities for a 2 p.m. contest next Friday at the Buddy Hartsell Tennis Center.
For more information on the ETSU men's tennis team please visit www.ETSUBucs.com.