NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State men’s tennis team advanced to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) semifinals for the first time since 2014 with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over North Carolina Central on Thursday evening at Old Dominion University’s Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center.
Freshmen Agustin Carrizo and Ignacio Guevel, the two newest Spartans, jumpstarted Norfolk State’s comeback from a 1-0 deficit after doubles play. However, the only two players to return from last year’s team, sophomores Flavian Fernandez and Dan Dumitrascu, registered straight-set victories to secure the match.
North Carolina Central, the South’s No. 3 seed, finished the season at 7-15. Norfolk State, the No. 2 seed from the North, improved to 4-8 and advanced to Friday’s semifinal round at noon against defending MEAC champion and South No. 1 seed South Carolina State.
Needing to win four of the six singles matches, Carrizo and Guevel lost just four games combined in the four sets played at the Nos. 5 and 6 positions. Carrizo cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sebastian Bromley at the No. 5 position, while Guevel defeated Pablo Juez Torres 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6. Shortly after those matches concluded, Norfolk State extended its lead to 3-1 when Fernandez recorded a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Maksym Konovalov at the No. 4 position.
While the lower positions were cruising to victories, the top three players were entrenched in hotly-contested battles with their counterparts from North Carolina Central.
Gabriel Cucalon outlasted Andres Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4 at the top position, cutting the Spartans’ lead to 3-2, with Dumitrascu and Theo Kontopoulos each holding a one set to none lead. Vini Da Silva rallied to force a 6-6 tiebreaker in the second set with Kontopoulos at the No. 4 position, while Dumitrascu was trying to avoid heading to a third and deciding set with Davide Callegari at the No. 3. Dumitrascu won the first set 6-4, but trailed 6-5 in the second set. But Dumitrascu tied the match at 6-all, then won the tie-breaker 7-5 to clinch the win and set off a celebration among the Spartan players.
In doubles action, the Eagles took a 1-0 lead with victories in both matches that were completed. North Carolina Central’s top team of Cucalon and Konovalov cruised to a 6-2 victory over Norfolk State’s duo of Alcaraz and Dumitrascu, while North Carolina Central’s second pair of Kontopoulos and Callegari won 6-2 over Fernandez and Carrizo. The final doubles match was not finished, but Norfolk State’s team of Da Silva and Guevel held a 5-1 lead over Juez Torres and Bromley at the No. 3 position.
The Spartans’ last semifinal berth, and last tournament victories, came in 2014 when the championship was played in Cayce, S.C. Norfolk State finished as tournament runner-up that year, falling to South Carolina State in the championship final.
Originally published at nsuspartans.com