by Tom Utescher
The Post University Eagles arrived at Chestnut Hill College last Saturday as the top-ranked tennis team in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, sporting a 3-0 record. The host Griffins were number two, but that was only because they’d played fewer CACC matches, winning their opener against Bloomfield College the previous weekend, 9-0.
CHC sorted out the Eagles last weekend, opening up a 2-1 edge in the three doubles matches and then winning in five of the six singles flights for a 7-2 victory. Chestnut Hill climbed to 2-0 in the CACC and 7-5 overall as a result, and most of the team’s losses have come against very challenging opponents.
“Early in the schedule we played five nationally-ranked teams,” pointed out first-year head coach and Chestnut Hill Academy alum Ryan Gargullo.
“We lost two of those matches 4-5, and we won another one 6-3 [over Division II national number 32 New York Institute of Technology].”
In the pairs play segment that started off last Saturday’s match (each bout consisting of a single pro set), the Griffins won at first doubles, 8-6, thanks to Frenchmen Pierre Kohler (a sophomore) and Jonathan Ducretot (a junior).
In individual play, Coach Gargullo noted, “Pierre is on his way to an MVP season. He’s beaten at lot of top players in the conference and the region, and even nationally. Jonathan is our captain and he’s the heart and soul of this team. He’s kept these guys focused.”
Performing for Chestnut Hill in the second doubles flight were juniors Lucas Bocaletto and Pedro Festugato Regalin, both from Brazil. Bocaletto was fighting through an abdominal muscle strain which visibly impaired his movement, and he and Regalin succumbed, 7-9, to visitors Nikola Crvelin and Ludwig Henrikson.
CHC carried the doubles competition with a second win, this in an 8-1 third flight featuring Felix Andre, a sophomore from Germany, and Antoine Gautier, a freshman from France.
Andre arrived on campus this year as a transfer.
“He was a really good pick-up from Morgan State,” Gargullo said. “He’s been really consistent for us at number three.”
In singles competition, Chestnut Hill quickly tabbed a pair of wins in brief straight-sets contests. Gautier captured a pair of 6-2 sets from Post number five Peter Rossel, and Belgian Victor Iore, a sophomore, won the sixth flight at 6-1, 6-2 over the Eagles’ Joe Alvord.
The visitors put one match in their column, though, as CHC’s Bocaletto was overcome by Ivan Rajevac, 6-3, 6-4.
Still, Chestnut Hill was just one win away from clinching the team victory, and it was Kohler who put the Griffins over the top by getting past Post number one Crvelin, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. At number three, Post’s Henrikson won the first set, 6-1, and Andre rebounded to take the second, 6-3. The third set was decided by a super tie-breaker, which Andre won 10-7.
Putting an exclamation point on the Griffins’ win, number four Ducretot ground out a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 decision over visitor Sam Urban.
A number of the players CHC has attracted from other countries initially enrolled at other colleges or universities when they came to the U.S., but when they transferred to Chestnut Hill they really settled in.
Gargullo commented, “It seems to be something about the school and the team environment. Going back to the time of Albert Stroble [the coach who constructed the Griffins’ modern day racquet program], this team has been a kind of family, and for our players it’s been a home away from home.”
Gargullo was formerly an assistant at the college, and he also became accustomed to directing an international cast while working at the Evert Tennis Academy at Florida immediately prior to returning to CHC as head coach.
Following last Saturday’s success, he remarked, “We feel we’re battle-tested and we’re pretty confident with where we are right now. These guys come in and fight hard in every practice. We have a lot of depth on this team, so we just let them play it out and see where the positions fall.”