Men's Tennis Edged by Cal, 4-2, in NCAA First Round on Saturday

LOS ANGELES, Calif. The No. 36-ranked Boise State men’s tennis team fought hard to the end of their 2008 season, falling in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships. The No. 3-seeded Broncos (21-12) dropped a grueling 4-2 match to No. 2-seeded University of California at USC’s Marks Stadium.

Head coach Greg Patton explained, “Today was like our season. We fought to the end. We lost some tough 4-3 matches this year. We hoped to at least extend it to 4-3 today. Cal’s depth was deeper than ours. Cal was mining gold, we were mining silver. We’re strong at the top, but their depth was impressive.”

Cal won the doubles point to get off to a 1-0 lead, holding off two comeback attempts at the second and third doubles spots. Boise State’s brother tandem of Clancy and Luke Shields, who are ranked No. 29 in the ITA rankings, first upended Cal’s Geoff Chizever and Pedro Zerbini, 8-3, at No. 1.

At No. 3 doubles, Cal’s Jonathan Dahan and Bozhidar Katsarov jumped out to a 6-2 lead only to see Boise State’s Piotr Dilaj and Steve Robertson close to within 7-5. But that’s as far as they would get, falling 8-5 as the Bears evened the doubles competition.

That turned eyes to No. 2 doubles, where the Broncos’ Paul Koenke and Eric Roberson came back from a 6-4 deficit to tie the match at 6-6 and again rallied to tie it at 7-7. But Cal’s Eoin Heavey and Kallim Stewart were able to hold off the comeback attempt, winning the next two games for a 9-7 win to give the Bears the doubles point.

Heavey gave Cal a 2-0 lead at No. 3 singles with a 6-2, 6-2, win over Brent Werbeck, though moments later, No. 97-ranked Luke Shields got Boise State on the board with a 6-4, 6-2, win over No. 110-ranked Stewart at No. 1 singles.

The Bears extended their lead to 3-1 as Zerbini defeated Dilaj, 6-2, 6-3, at No. 4 singles. The Broncos responded minutes later as No. 83-ranked Clancy Shields mimicked his brother to defeat Mouillon, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 2 singles and get Boise to within 3-2.

Cal’s Katsarov appeared on his way to a straight-set win at No. 6 singles to close out the match for the Bears. But leading 7-6, 3-0, Boise State’s Koenke came back to rattle off six consecutive games (winning 17 points in a row in one stretch) to even the set. Katsarov, however, somehow reversed the momentum and blanked Koenke in the final set to clinch his match and the win for Cal. Play at No. 5 singles was suspended at one set apiece.

“We were hoping to get off court 5 with a win (to even the match at 3-3) and put pressure on court 6, but we couldn’t get there,” said Patton. “It’s good to get into the dance, but we were thrown out too early.”

Cal will face USC in the NCAA second round match on Sunday.

The Broncos ended their season with a 21-12 record and will say goodbye to five seniors: Luke Shields, Piotr Dilaj, Eric Roberson, Brent Werbeck, and Jamaal Hepburn. Boise State finished 14-11 on the season against ranked opponents and had a near perfect home record of 16-1, proving their season was very successful.

Junior Clancy Shields has qualified as an NCAA Individual competitor in singles play and will join older brother Luke Shields in the doubles draw. The NCAA Individual Championships will be played in Tulsa, Okla. from May 21-26, just after the NCAA Team Championships.

(1) Geoff Chizever-Pedro Zerbini (Cal) lost to Clancy Shields-Luke Shields (BSU), 3-8
(2) Eoin Heavey-Kallim Stewart (Cal) def. Paul Koenke-Eric Roberson (BSU), 9-7
(3) Jonathan Dahan-Bozhidar Katsarov (Cal) def. Piotr Dilaj-Steve Robertson (BSU), 8-5

Order of Finish: 1,3,2

(1) Kallim Stewart (Cal) lost to Luke Shields (BSU), 4-6, 2-6
(2) Pierre Mouillon (Cal) lost to Clancy Shields (BSU), 4-6, 1-6
(3) Eoin Heavey (Cal) def. Brent Werbeck (BSU), 6-2, 6-2
(4) Pedro Zerbini (Cal) def. Piotr Dilaj (BSU), 6-2, 6-3
(5) Jonathan Dahan (Cal) vs. Eric Roberson (BSU) 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), susp.
(6) Bozhidar Katsarov (Cal) def. Paul Koenke (BSU), 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-0

Order of Finish: 3,1,4,2,6

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