by Tom Utescher
Battling with visiting Philadelphia University last Wednesday for the second seed in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference tennis tournament, the Chestnut Hill College racquetmen put themselves in a predicament by losing all three doubles contests in the first phase of the match.
Then, when CHC only managed a split with the Rams in the first two singles bouts to be completed, the Griffins were just one loss away from a team setback. Philly U. was unable to acquire that additional “W” though, as Chestnut Hill pulled out victories in each of the last four matches left out on the court to carry the day, 5-4.
Coming in, both teams were 3-1 in conference competition (each lost to New York’s Concordia College, a squad with players from eight foreign countries), with CHC owning a slightly better overall record, 9-9 to the Rams’ 8-10 mark.
For the lone member of Chestnut Hill’s Class of 2012, Julius Twyman, it was Senior Day. Currently number four on the team ladder, Twyman has been a four-year starter and he played first singles and doubles as a freshman. The following season, he received All-CACC honors.
Twyman was playing first doubles once more as he took the court in his last home match on Wednesday. He and freshman Yoann Pham fell in the standard doubles pro-set, 3-8, to visitors Adrian Torroella-Cruz and Manoli Sgouros. There was also a convincing victory for the Rams in the third flight, where Nail Rachidi and Eric Guerrero won, 8-2, over Griffins freshman Sammy Atri and sophomore Michael Pecoraro.
The number two tandems were evenly matched, but eventually Kyle Burke and Ryan Christopher captured a 10-8 tiebreaker to sew up a 9-8 victory against freshman Mike Humes and sophomore Manuel Ceniceros of CHC.
“We got down 0-3 in the doubles, but we just took the approach that there were six more matches to play,” remarked Griffins head coach Albert Stroble. “In singles we played great today. At the end I had a freshman and a sophomore who were in a real pressure situation and they came through.”
With junior Pat Joson recovering from shoulder surgery, Twyman is the only athlete in the line-up who is not a first or second-year player. In singles, he was defeated by the Rams’ Christopher, 4-6, 2-6, but just before that match ended CHC had picked up its first win of the afternoon with Humes’ 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Torroella-Cruz at first singles.
On the court next door another Griffins freshman, Pham, soon wrapped up a pair of 6-3 sets against the visiting number two, Sgouros.
At third singles, CHC’s Ceniceros had a tougher match against Burke, but he pulled out a 7-5, 6-4 win, and the Griffins were still on track towards a come-from-behind team victory.
Fifth and sixth singles were still on the court, and Chestnut Hill eventually captured both bouts by identical scores, 6-3, 6-4. Atri finished first, clinching at number five when his final serve was hit back into the net by the Rams’ Guerrero.
The Griffins had clinched the second seed for the conference playoffs, and their reward was… a rematch with number three Philly U. in the four-team tournament at Concordia.
“Obviously, they’ll want to avenge this loss,” pointed out Stroble, “so we’ve got to make sure we match their intensity. Hopefully, we’ll win at least one doubles match at the beginning so we don’t make it so hard on ourselves.”