The No. 22 ranked Boise State
men’s tennis team couldn’t have asked for a more thrilling victory over the No. 54 ranked University of New Mexico
in the Mountain Regional Playoff finals Saturday night. The Broncos (4-0) continued their perfect season, topping the Lobos (1-1) in an extremely close 4-3 win. The five hour match between the two teams came down to the final match of the night (No. 6 singles) to determine the winner.
“It’s like jumping on a train at the last minute right when it’s leaving,” said head coach Gregg Patton of the closeness of the final match. “Luckily we [Boise State] are all aboard on the train to Seattle.”
Much more than playoff champion bragging rights were on the line Saturday night at the Boas Tennis Center; the playoff winner would earn a spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships held in Seattle in February.
In a back-and-forth battle, the Lobos started out on top as far as team points go, taking two of the three doubles matches for one team point. UNM’s Chris Parkes and Johnny Parkes topped BSU’s Steve Robertson and Clancy Shields 8-3 in the No. 2 doubles match to give the advantage to New Mexico. BSU’s No. 3 doubles team, Paul Koenke and Eric Roberson evened the score by defeating Graeme Kassautski and Joe Wood, 9-7, leaving the doubles team point up to the winners of the No. 1 doubles match. In a match just as close as the score shows, UNM’s Max Jones and Kamil Pajkowski topped Kean Feeder and Luke Shields of Boise State, 9-8, to give the Lobos the two-match advantage in doubles play.
“New Mexico gave us everything they had, it was really exciting tennis,” said Patton. “Both teams knew that the doubles point was important and with New Mexico winning it, it put us in a bit of a bind. The momentum swings were like a see-saw, at first we looked to win doubles, but UNM came back to win the point.”
Singles play was much the same, teeter-tottering with wins for each team. No. 47 ranked Luke Shields was the first to earn a team point for the Broncos, defeating No. 35 ranked Max Jones in convincing style, 6-0, 6-2, in the No. 1 singles match. From there the Lobos went back on top in team points when Chris Parkes topped BSU’s Feeder, 6-1, 6-3 in the No. 4 singles match.
The Broncos were able to go up 3-2 in team points after Werbeck and Robertson earned wins. Werbeck topped Miles Bugby in a quick 6-2, 6-1 No. 5 singles match, while Robertson fought through a tiebreak at No. 3 singles to defeat Kassautski, 6-2, 7-6. New Mexico once again evened the playing field with a 7-6, 6-3 win by Johnny Parkes over Clancy Shields at the No. 2 singles spot.
With the team score set at 3-3, the two teams depended on their No. 6 singles players to hold up to the pressure of the match. Battling for two hours, BSU’s Piotr Dilaj won a point-by-point match over Pajkowski, winning 7-5, 7-6 to clinch the Broncos’ ticket to Seattle for the national championships.
“Piotr knew he was going to play for the match,” explained Patton. “Halfway through the match he changed his tactics and it worked for him to get the win. We put a lot of pressure on him, but he handled it so well.”
The Broncos and Lobos won’t take long to face each other again, this time in Albuquerque, in a regular season dual on January 25.
“We face them [New Mexico] again next week,” said Patton. “Tonight both teams played great tennis and I think our play will make both teams better. Next weeks competition will be tough as well, just not as much on the line; the ramifications of tonight’s match was much bigger.”
The Broncos will head to Seattle for the ITA National Indoor Team Championships held from February 15-18 at the Seattle Tennis Club. The tournament, hosted by the University of Washington, will consist of 16 top-ranked teams in the nation and is the second most important competition, only behind the NCAA National Championships. The 16-team field includes: Virginia (#1 ranked), Georgia (#2), Ohio State (#3), Baylor (#4), Mississippi (#5), USC (#6), Texas (#7), Illinois (#8), UCLA (#9), North Carolina (#10), Oklahoma State (#11), Notre Dame (#12), Alabama (#13), Boise State (#22), Washington (#37), and Penn State (#40).
Mountain Regional Playoff - Finals
No. 1 seed Boise State (#22) vs. No. 2 seed New Mexico (#54)
January 19, 2008, 6 p.m. at BSU’s Boas Indoor Tennis Center
1. Jones/Pajkowski def. Feeder/L. Shields, 9-8
2. Parkes/Parkes def. Robertson/C. Shields, 8-3
3. Koenke/Roberson (#41) def. Kassautzki/Wood, 9-7
1. Luke Shields (#47) def. Max Jones (#35), 6-0, 6-2
2. Johnny Parkes def. Clancy Shields (#19), 7-6, 6-3
3. Steve Robertson def. Graeme Kassautski, 6-2, 7-6
4. Chris Parkes def. Kean Feeder, 6-1, 6-3
5. Brent Werbeck def. Miles Bugby, 6-2, 6-1
6. Piotr Dilaj def. Kamil Pajkowski, 7-5, 7-6
Final Score: Boise State 4, New Mexico 3
Boise State Season Record: 4-0
UNM Season Record: 1-1