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Bobcats capture NEC crown
The Quinnipiac men’s tennis team won the NEC Championship for the first time since 2006 on Sunday afternoon, coming from behind and beating cross-town rival Sacred Heart 4-3 at the Mercer County Tennis Center in West Windsor, N.J. After the Bobcats dropped the doubles point, seniors Charlie Feldman and John Hughes and sophomores James Kwei and Garrett Lane won their singles matches to secure the title.
“I’m extremely pleased with my men coming from behind by working diligently to get the job done,” Quinnipiac head coach Mike Quitko said. “We faced a very well-coached, talented team in Sacred Heart, which gave us quite a battle. It took a group effort to pull this one out and I’m very proud of my men for doing so.”
Sacred Heart earned the doubles point as they took matches two and three, both 8-3. They also took the No.1 singles match, as the Pioneers’ Kirill Kasyanov took down junior Brian Mikkelson 6-3, 6-0.
However, the Bobcats won four of the other five singles matches, including a dominating performance by Hughes in match two, 6-1, 6-0. Feldman lost the first set of his match, but then came back to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to secure the title for the Bobcats.
“I knew I had pressure on me,” Feldman said. “I was hoping that Garrett, who played four, would pull out his match. I thrived on the pressure, that’s what I like, that’s what makes me go. I knew there was pressure on me, and I wanted to be there on out there.”
The Bobcats had faced the Pioneers one week earlier, losing 4-3 in that match. But before making it to the title game, the Bobcats already had revenge on their mind for another team.
“We lost to Fairleigh Dickenson and Sacred Heart; they both are great teams,” Feldman said. “They played well in the regular season, they played well in the tournament. We came out here and we knew that we could win this tournament, we just needed to put it all together. We fought with everything we had, and we won two tight matches 4-3 against FDU and Sacred Heart, and both those teams played amazing, but I think we really deserved it.”
Seeded third in the tournament, Quinnipiac rolled by No. 6 Saint Francis (Pa.) 4-0 in the quarterfinals, but then had to face No. 2 Fairleigh Dickinson, who they had lost to 4-1 on March 31.
The Bobcats earned the doubles point against FDU as Mikkelson and Kwei won the first match 8-5, while Hughes and freshman Andrew Weeden won the second match 8-6.
However, the Knights wouldn’t give up without a fight, winning in singles matches one, three and six.
Quinnipiac prevailed in the end, though, as Hughes won the second singles match 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Garrett Lane made quick work against Yuri Gricheno in match four, 6-0, 6-2, and Kwei sealed the deal in match five, 6-4, 6-3.
Now, with the NEC Championship in their hands, the Bobcats look toward the NCAA Tournament, which begins on May 14. Their opponent and destination will be announced on ESPN News on May 4. With the tournament victory, the Bobcats have improved their season record to 10-4.
The team won their fourth NEC title in seven years, and are happy to be on top after winning their first title in the last four years.
“It’s where we belong,” Quitko said. “Hopefully we stay there for a while.”
Photo credit: Northeast Conference