Champs again — Idaho doubles team wins regional championship
The crown stays in Idaho after the Vandals tennis doubles pairing, seniors Marius Cirstea and Abid Akbar, won five straight matches and the Regional Championship in Las Vegas.
“I told him we were going to win it and we were going to New York and we did it, we won,” Cirstea said.
Cirstea was the reigning regional champion after winning the tournament last year with Andrew Dobbs. Dobbs graduated, and Akbar, the team captain, stepped in as Cirstea’s partner.
Akbar said it feels really good to help give Cirstea the chance to go to New York again and compete in the National Indoor Championships.
“I’m really happy that I could help him retain his title — he played amazing tennis and he just believes in himself and I guess he believes in me too,” Akbar said.
Cirstea has told everyone since the beginning of the semester that he and Akbar would win Regionals this season.
“I’m really happy because we achieved this goal,” Cirstea said. “We practiced really hard and were really focused on winning it.”
Cirstea attributes much of their success to how aggressive they play. He said most teams like to grind out points and field the ball a lot but he and Akbar like to just get out there and win the point.
That wasn’t always easy to do, though.
Cirstea and Akbar found themselves down 7-4 in the quarterfinals, but they stuck through and got the win and kept on winning.
“It felt really good because it wasn’t easy at all. We actually had to fight to get the results,” Cirstea said.
There are nationally-ranked programs that haven’t sent a pairing to the Indoor National Championships even once, let alone twice. Idaho did it twice in a row and Idaho Director of Tennis Jeff Beaman said it says a lot for the program and for Cirstea.
The doubles championship was the biggest win of the tournament, but it was not the only one.
“Across the board, every guy put up some wins in doubles and singles” Beaman said. “Our best overall performance by far at this event by Idaho.”
Idaho had three pairings in doubles. Matt Oddonetto and Cristobal Ramos lost in the first round, as did Jake Knox and Filip Fichtel. Jose Bendeck and Cesar Torres won two rounds before losing in the quarterfinals.
In singles, Bendeck, Ramos and Fichtel lost in the first round. Knox, Torres and Oddonetto won their first round and lost in the second and Cirstea had a first round bye and then won a match before being eliminated in the Round of 32. Akbar added a great singles run to his doubles championship. After a first round bye, he won three straight and lost to the No. 7 seed in quarterfinals.
On Friday alone, Akbar played three singles matches which he said were some of the longest matches he has had in a while. He was on the court for seven and a half hours. Akbar had to forget about his singles loss and prepare for doubles the next day.
This tournament was full of top level competition and often leads to a very long tournament. This year was no exception. Akbar said the Vandals handled it well though, and everyone did great.
“From Wednesday to Sunday it was non-stop, long days, lot of matches, with a good level tennis— a lot of support from teammates and it turned out to be a good tournament,” Akbar said.
The next tournament for the men is Nov. 9-11 when they head to Seattle for the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate tournament. This amazing performance is sure to give them all some great momentum going in.
Charles Crowley can be reached at email@example.com