The No. 5 seed Oglethorpe men's tennis team found themselves in a tough matchup with No. 4 seed Birmingham-Southern Friday morning in the first round of the SAA Tournament at Burns Park Tennis Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a back-and-forth battle, but the Panthers emerged with a 5-4 victory in the end, drawing the Stormy Petrels' season to a close with a 7-12 overall record.
In a rematch of Saturday's 7-2 Birmingham-Southern victory at the Downing Howell Courts, the Petrels proved a difficult opponent for the Panthers on Friday. Oglethorpe fell behind 2-1 after doubles, but worked their way back into the thick of things during the singles portion of play. Down 3-1, Oglethorpe got three consecutive victories in a match that was suspended and then moved indoors midway through due to rain.
Junior Rhys Richardson won the first set of his No. 1 match 6-3, but was blanked 6-0 in the second. He bounced back in the third for a 6-2 win, though. Freshman Dustin Bowie found himself locked in a pair of tiebreaks, but won them both to win his No. 3 match in straight sets. He finished off the first-set tiebreaker 8-6, then came back with a 7-4 win in the second-set tiebreaker, tying the score 3-3. Sophomore Michael Santaloci continued the Oglethorpe run from his No. 4 position. After winning the first set 6-1, he fell in a tough 9-7 tiebreaker in the second to set up a decisive third set. He performed very well in that stanza, though, defeating his opponent 6-3 to suddenly give Oglethorpe a 4-3 lead.
However, the Panthers won both of their final two matches. The No. 6 match, featuring junior Matthew Magee, went to a third set after Magee fell 6-2 in the first but came back with a 6-2 win in the second. However, he fell 6-4 in the third in the clinching match for the Panthers after leading that set 3-0. Freshman Zoe Raymond was competitive at No. 5, but fell 6-4, 6-3.
The Petrels got into their 3-1 hole largely due to a pair of doubles losses. Richardson and Raymond blitzed their opponent 8-0 at No. 3 doubles, but the Panthers took the other two matches. Bowie and sophomore Richard Johnson fell 9-7 at No. 1, while Santaloci and Magee lost 8-6 at No. 2. Johnson also fell 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 2 singles match.
"We knew this was going to be a tough matchup going in," said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "This was a team that beat us 7-2 at our place last weekend. But we responded very well and gave it everything we had in every match. I was really proud of the way the guys responded today. We had a couple of chances to turn the tables and actually win this match. Unfortunately, it just wasn't to be."