The TCU’s men’s tennis team claimed its fifth Mountain West Conference Championship with a dramatic 4-3 victory over second-seeded San Diego State Saturday at the Frank and Vicki Fertitta Tennis Complex. The fourth-seeded Horned Frogs also secured the league’s automatic bid into the 2010 NCAA Team Championships, advancing to the tournament for the 19th time in the last 20 years.
TCU, currently ranked No. 72 in the ITA national team rankings, is now 3-1 in four appearances in the MWC championship round. The squad also earned tournament crowns in 2006 and 2008, while boasting a pair of regular-season championships in 2008 and 2009.
“Frankly, I have never gone through and up and down year like this season,” TCU head coach Dave Borelli said. “We lost so many close matches and then we lost Slah (Mbarek) for the year. We had a team meeting after we got embarrassed by New Mexico and we talked about what we had to do to turn this thing around. We decided to not put any pressure on ourselves and just go out and see what we can do.”
“It was a complete team win with everyone contributing somehow every day,” Borelli added. “We had to go out and beat two of the best three players in the conference. Emanuel Brighiu was calm, confident and relaxed and for him to do what he did today was special. Zach (Nichols) beat a guy that just pummeled him earlier in the year at San Diego State and we couldn’t have had a better guy at the end than Chris (Price).”
The morning began with the Frogs claiming the doubles point with wins at the top and bottom courts for the third day in the tournament. TCU’s top pairing of Emanuel Brighiu and Christopher Price, which is rated No. 37 nationally, picked up their ninth-consecutive victory and got the Frogs rolling in doubles with an 8-4 victory from the top court over the Aztecs’ Achim Vladimirschii and Giovanni Vaglietti.
The Frogs’ team of Zach Nichols and Chappell had to battle to clinch the doubles point with an 8-6 win at the No. 3 position against SDSU’s Andre Feliz and Tim Schulz van Endert. The TCU tandem found themselves down 6-5 and had to break the Aztecs’ serve to even the match and seal the victory, stealing the final three games.
SDSU bounced back to begin singles action, earning a pair of wins from the bottom part of the lineup to take a 2-1 lead in the team score. Schulz van Endert picked up the initial victory over TCU freshman Soren Goritzka, 6-0, 6-1, while Feliz upended Chappell from the sixth flight, 6-3, 6-2.
Nichols pushed the match a 2-2 knot, dismantling Vladimirschii from the No. 2 position in convincing fashion, 6-3, 6-4. The victory was the second of the weekend for the 2010 all-MWC singles selection, moving his spring record to 13-10 for the spring.
Freshman Marius-Adrian Cirstea held leads in both sets of his match with Vaglietti at the No. 3 court, but the Bucharest, Romania product did not have enough in the tank to hold off the Aztec, dropping the match, 6-2, 6-4. The win pushed SDSU to within a point of taking the tournament title, leading 3-2.
The Frogs kept fighting with two matches left on the court. Brighiu stepped up from the top court and cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 straight set triumph over MWC Co-Player of the Year Juan Gomez. The junior from Iasi, Romania went unbeaten for the Championships and owns a 10-11 ledger for the spring.
As Brighiu put the finishing touches on Gomez to move the team tally to 3-3, the focus of the match shifted to the No. 4 position and the epic match between Price and the SDSU’s Luis Rattenhuber.
Price took the opening frame in impressive tiebreaker fashion, 7-6, (10), needing six set points to end the frame. The junior from Houston, Texas battled take the first set, winning the last two games to push the match into the tie-break. In the second set, Price himself down 2-1 early, but kicked it into a higher gear and dominated the rest of the match, stealing the final five game to clinch the tournament title for the Frogs, 7-6 (10), 6-2.
“I’m excited that we are playing in the NCAA Championships now, but I’m also excited for the future,” Borelli said. “We also have a doubles team going as individuals, so we have nailed down two of our three main goals. We are conference champions and I am just so overwhelmed by what one weekend can do. It just shows what confidence and a little luck and hard work can really do.”
TCU (12-12) will now have to wait and see where it will play the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Championships, May 14-16.
No. 72 TCU 4, No. 55 San Diego State 3
May 1, 2010
MWC Championships Finals — Las Vegas, Nevada
Frank and Vicki Fertitta Tennis Complex
1. Emanuel Brighiu (TCU) def. Juan Gomez (SDSU), 6-4, 6-4
2. Zach Nichols (TCU) def. Achim Vladimirschii (SDSU), 6-3, 6-4
3. Giovanni Vaglietti (SDSU) def. Marius Cerstea (TCU), 6-2, 6-4
4. *Christopher Price (TCU) def. Luis Rattenhuber (SDSU), 7-6 (10), 6-2
5. Tim Shultz van Endert (SDSU) def. Soren Goritzka (TCU), 6-0, 6-1
6. Andre Feliz (SDSU) def. Paul Chappell (TCU), 6-3, 6-2
1. #37 Emanuel Brighiu/Christopher Price (TCU) def. No. 87 Achim Vladimirschii/Giovanni Vaglietti (SDSU), 8-4
2. Luis Rattenhuber/Juan Gomez (SDSU) def. Cameron Nash/Soren Goritzka (TCU), 8-3
3. Paul Chappell/Zach Nichols (TCU) def. Andre Feliz/Tim Schulz van Endert (SDSU), 8-6
Order of finish: Doubles (2, 1, 3*); Singles (5, 6, 2, 3, 1, 4*)
*—clinched team victory