The Oglethorpe men's tennis team finished the best regular season in the program's modern era Sunday with a 7-2 drubbing of regionally-ranked Rhodes in Memphis, Tenn.
Though the Petrels won by a seemingly easy 7-2 scoreline, the dual match was far from easy. The team swept doubles, but two of the matches could have gone the other way. Ben Hirsch and Ethan Motz squeaked by 8-6 at No. 1, while freshman duo Briton Richardson and Nick Roby prevailed in a tight 9-7 match at No. 3. At No. 2, Bryan Bailey and C.J. Antonio easily dispatched their opponents by an 8-2 margin.
Even though the Petrels went into the singles portion of the competition with a 3-0 lead, it did not start out well for the visiting side. Motz, Bailey and Hirsch all lost their first sets, while Kirk Zhao had to fight off multiple set points to win 7-6 at No. 4.
Motz wound up losing 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 while Bailey suffered a rare loss, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 3. This drew Rhodes to within a match, 3-2.
Hirsch came back to win the second set at No. 5 after dropping the first 6-3, though, even though he was down 5-4 with his opponent serving for the match. Hirsch broke his opponent twice to take the second set 7-5, then won the third set 6-3, pushing the Petrels to within a match of taking the overall win on the day, 4-2.
Antonio clinched the win at No. 2. He won the first set 6-4, but was frustrated by the howling wind on a very breezy day in Memphis and lost the second set 6-0. In the third set, Antonio battled through the conditions and won 6-4, putting the Petrels up 5-2 and clinching the dual match.
Meanwhile, Zhao was engaged in an epic first-set battle. He saved two set points and won the tiebreak, 8-6. The set lasted more than 90 minutes. After securing the first set, the second was a bit more straightforward for Zhao, and he won 6-4.
Richardson was also locked in a tense battle at No. 6. He lost his first set, as well, 6-4, but then came back to take the second set 6-2. Since the dual match had already been decided, the two competitiors went to a third-set super-tiebreak. Richardson prevailed in the back-and-forth tiebreak, winning 11-9 and clinching the Petrels' seventh point on the day.
The win improves the Petrels record to 17-4, which is their best record in the modern era. This bests the previous mark of 17-5, which was set in 2011. They finish their conference schedule with a 6-1 record, and have secured the No. 2 seed in the SAA Championships in Murfreesboro, Tenn., April 26-28. They will take on No. 7 seed Berry in the quarterfinal round before likely having to get through No. 3 seed Rhodes again in the semifinals.