Huge wins for Vandal tennis
Big wins for Abid Akbar and Marius Cirstea at Baylor and a doubles championship for Cesar Torres at Eastern Washington helped make the first competition weekend for the Vandal men’s tennis team a success.
“Baylor was a good tournament against some high level competition,” Idaho Director of Tennis Jeff Beaman said. “Some pretty solid results against some very strong national competition.”
Student assistant Andrew Dobbs traveled to Cheney, Wash., with the rest of the team and said there were mixed results on the weekend, but overall it was successful.
“If we can get all seven or eight guys on our team on the same page, then we will be a very dangerous team,” Dobbs said.
Idaho knew going in that both of these tournaments would be tough, but they were ready to see where they stand as their fall season begins. The team was split, sending Akbar and Cirstea to the Baylor HEB Invitational and the rest of the team to the Eastern Washington Invitational.
Baylor is a prestigious tournament, full of top-level teams with ranked players, but Akbar and Cirstea paid no attention to that. Playing in singles and doubles, both men started the tournament strong on the first day.
Akbar won both of his singles matches (4-6, 7-5, 6-1 and 6-4,6-3) and advanced to the Round of 16. Cirstea lost a tough first singles match (7-6, 6-2), but impressed in doubles. The pair won their first match 8-4 and their second match 8-3. Cirstea and Akbar fought a grueling match, losing in a 9-8 tie-break to fourth seeded Jarryd Chaplin and Edward Jones of Texas, who went on to win the tournament.
Saturday, it was time for consolation play for Cirstea and time for Akbar to face a big hurdle in the Round of 16 — No. 2 seed Hunter Reese from Tennessee. Akbar started slow, losing the first set 6-2, but fought hard in the second set and fell just short, losing the match 6-2, 7-6. Reese ended up playing clear to the championship, where he lost to the No. 7 player in the country, Mate Zsiga from Baylor.
Cirstea advanced through two rounds in the consolation bracket before being eliminated in a grueling three-set match. Idaho didn’t win any brackets in this tournament, but they weren’t expected to, either.
Beaman was satisfied with the outcome and said the results were promising.
“You want to go out, especially when it’s so close. It would be nice to get wins in those matches but competing against some of the strongest completion in the country and not getting plastered, you pick out your positives and build from that,” Beaman said.
Closer to home in Cheney, the rest of the Idaho team gained experience as well. The EWU Invitational is not the high-level tournament that Baylor is, but there were still plenty of high-level players.
In singles, Jake Knox and Cesar Torres advanced to the semi-finals in their respective flights and Filip Fichtel and Jose Bendeck made it to the quarter-finals in their flights. Freshman Matt Oddonetto had a successful tournament and won his flight in his first college tournament ever.
Idaho had three pairings in the doubles flight, but with Cristobal Ramos Salazar unable to play, Torres was partnered with Eric Braun from the University of Montana. Fichtel and Knox dropped out in the first round and Odonetto and Bendeck lost in the Round of 16.
Torres knew Braun very well from his home country of Peru. They have known each other many years and instantly clicked on the court. The two walked right through the first few rounds and into the championship match. This match wasn’t as easy, but Torres and his partner did not let up and finished the job, winning 9-8 against a Gonzaga pairing, finishing first place in the tournament.
“I have never won a tournament before in college, so it really makes me feel really happy,” Torres said.
Dobbs predicts good things for the Vandals this season.
“Everybody on the team can compete with anyone so it’s just moving forward and doing what we did successful at this tournament and at Baylor and then improving what we didn’t do very well,” Dobbs said. “I believe we can do it, and we will do it, so we will get there.”
Charles Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org