For the third consecutive year, the Vandal men’s tennis team has won the doubles championship at the ITA Mountain Regional Championships.
Senior Jose Bendeck and junior Cristobal Ramos Salazar can pack their bags for the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y., after the duo finished off Boise State on Sunday in the finals to win the tournament and secure the national tournament bid.
The pairing cruised past New Mexico State in the quarterfinals and New Mexico in the semifinals to reach the championship match in Las Vegas. It was never even close as Bendeck and Ramos Salazar eliminated Thomas Doublas and Naveen Manivannan 8-4 in the quarterfinals and played even better against Rodolfo Juaregui and Hayden Sabatka in the semifinals with an 8-1 victory. The Idaho duo dominated in a similar fashion 8-2 against the Broncos’ Brendan McClain and Garrett Patton in the final for a third-straight Vandal doubles title.
“Jose and Cristobal had an extraordinary tournament,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. “To go out and dominate in the semifinals and finals against very good opponents shows the level that they can play. If they can play at that level, they definitely have a shot to win the National Indoors.”
Bendeck was competitive in singles play, as well as earlier in the tournament. On Thursday, he won in the round of 32 with two straight set wins against Andrew Poustie from Nevada, 6-4, 6-2. Bendeck eventually was eliminated from singles in the round of 16 in a three set battle with Victor Ouvrard, also from Nevada.
Bendeck wasn’t the only Vandal to have success in singles. Senior Artemiy Nikitin won two straight sets in the round of 32 to defeat Germain Degardin from New Mexico State 6-3, 6-3. Nikitin was eliminated in a hard fought singles match in the round of 16 in three sets against Sam Iftikhar of New Mexico, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Ramos Salazar was defeated in singles play with a round of 32 loss against Ace Matias from UNLV. Sophomore transfer Odon Barta won in the round of 128 followed by another victory in the round of 64 before being eliminated in the round of 32 against Denver’s Henry Craig.
In all, 128 of the best singles players in the Mountain Region competed in the tournament and the doubles draw started with a round of 64 pairings.
It might not be much of a rebuilding year for Idaho after all, after the Vandals won the doubles draw despite losing five seniors from the 2012-13 season.
Two of those 2013 graduates were Marius Cristea and now volunteer assistant coach Abid Akbar, the 2012 doubles championship pairing. Cristea was also a part of the 2011 championship winning pairing with teammate Andrew Dobbs.
“It’s a point of pride to win this tournament three years in a row in doubles,” Beaman said. “It shows that the players are committed to learning the strategies and how to play doubles.”
Aaron Wolfe can be reached at email@example.com