Leads Slips Away As Huskies Fall In NCAA Opener

May 15, 2010

WACO, Texas - One year after staging a huge comeback win in the opening round of the NCAA Championships, the Husky men's tennis team had to deal with a reversal of fortunes as they let a 3-1 lead slip away to 33rd-ranked Rice in the first round of NCAA Regionals hosted by Baylor. No. 25 Washington (17-6) had two tiebreakers in singles that could have clinched the win, but Rice hung on for the 4-3 victory, ending UW's season sooner than planned.

Washington had not lost a match all year after earning the doubles point, so it had to feel confident after lopsided wins at second and third doubles to clinch an early 1-0 lead. Senior Derek Drabble and junior Martin Kildahl clinched the point with an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles over Rice's Tachibana and Rosa. For Drabble, it gives him 71 career doubles wins for his career, tying for fifth-most all-time. Juniors Tobi Obenaus and Alex Rosinski also ran away with an 8-2 win at third doubles over Podlewski and Polyakov to contribute to the point.

Rice tied things up at No. 6 singles, as Christian Saravia was able to take down Rosinski, 6-3, 6-4, but aside from that it was all Washington early. The Huskies won five of the six first sets in singles play. Obenaus notched his team-leading 24th singles win with a 7-6 (1), 6-2 victory over Isamu Tachibana at fifth singles to put UW back in front.

Junior Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan kept it rolling by closing out certainly the biggest win of his season at No. 1 singles, as he upset 27th-ranked Bruno Rosa, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Ranked 87th, Nedunchezhiyan missed out on making the NCAA Singles field for the second time, but took it out on Rosa, a two-time All-American and Conference USA Player of the Year who will be among the field of 64. He ends the season going 15-7 at the No. 1 spot with wins over seven ranked players.

From there, however, Rice began to rally. After each posting 6-4 first set wins Drabble and Kildahl only won a single game between them in the second sets and found themselves quickly in decisive third sets. Kildahl eventually fell just short of Oscar Podlewski, 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 at No. 4 singles. Drabble took a 4-2 lead in the third set over Sam Garforth-Bles at No. 3, but Garforth-Bles fought back to force a tiebreak, and kept Rice alive with a 7-4 win.

That brought it down to the No. 2 singles match with Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Kyle McMorrow against Michael Nuesslein. McMorrow won a see-saw first set, 7-5, and had a chance to close it out in straights in a second-set tiebreak, but Nuesslein stayed alive with the 7-3 win in the breaker. At 2-all in the third, Nuesslein pulled away with three straight games, and closed it out, 6-3.

The Owls will advance to face Baylor in the second round on Sunday. Washington will have to look ahead to next season starting in the fall. The Huskies lose only Drabble and will have a large senior class in 2011, but head coach Matt Anger was understandably disappointed in the present day's result.

'At the beginning of the year I wouldn't have seen this team losing in the first round,' said Anger. 'I think we are a very solid team. I know we hadn't really broken through versus a top-10 team, but I thought we were very solid. We let three matches get away where we won the first set. We win either of two tiebreakers and we win the match, but their guys fought hard. It was good clean tennis, a good battle and they got us 4-3.'

Washington Men's Tennis
NCAA Championships - First Round
May 15, 2010 - Waco, Texas
University of Baylor - Baylor Tennis Center

No. 33 Rice 4, No. 25 Washington 3

Doubles
1) (75) McMorrow/Nedunchezhiyan (UW) vs. Saravia/Nuesslein (Rice), 5-6, DNF
2) Drabble/Kildahl (UW) def. Tachibana/Rosa (Rice), 8-4
3) Obenaus/Rosinski (UW) def. Podlewski/Polyakov (Rice), 8-2
Order of finish: 3, 2

Singles
1) (87) Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (UW) def. (27) Bruno Rosa (Rice), 7-6 (4), 6-3
2) Michael Nuesslein (Rice) def. Kyle McMorrow (UW), 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3
3) Sam Garforth-Bles (Rice) def. Derek Drabble (UW), 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4)
4) Oscar Podlewski (Rice) def. Martin Kildahl (UW), 4-6, 6-0, 6-4
5) Tobi Obenaus (UW) def. Isamu Tachibana (Rice), 7-6 (1), 6-2
6) Christian Saravia (Rice) def. Alex Rosinski (UW), 6-3, 6-4
Order of finish: 6, 5, 1, 4, 3, 2

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